the Percussionist

Tap dancer Savion Glover lays down the big beat

Savion Glover is hard to pin down. Last March I tried to interview him, only to have our phone conversation postponed until he was in the car on the way to a Tonight Show taping. Then Leno won out entirely, leaving me with no interview and no insights from the child prodigy turned superb tapper, who learned from Gregory Hines and kicked wood in the music video for Kenny G's "Havana." Which was not a huge surprise: Glover, a go-it-alone kind of guy, often dances long sections with his back to the audience.

This time, via e-mail, the 31-year-old actually opened up about his upcoming Classical Savion, at the Barclay. He sees himself as an instrument—in contrast to other dance forms, where I like to think of the dancer as a paintbrush to the music. "Listen for the percussion aspect of the show," Glover writes, "the interrelationship between the percussionist (myself) and the string players."

For his latest show, Glover taps to Vivaldi, Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, and Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances with an almost prescient interpretation. "It's about becoming that. It's about embodying everything that I hear. I try to become that through dance. The music allows me to be that and follow that sound or instrument," Glover says. I'm envisioning Fantasia's jumping elephants, or how in jazz, the trumpet will join the bass and run zany circles around it, like a fluttering butterfly.

With his tentacle dreads, long wolfish beard and hard-edged hoofing, Glover's long been that butterfly, the golden child of the art form with nary a competitor in sight. Now he's taking that gleaming technique, first displayed in The Tap Dance Kid(when he was 12) and bringing it to the luster of classical music, like other greats before him (Buster Brown, Leon Collins). Critics have raved that his work unearths eddies and subtle themes below the surface of the music.

From the distance of cyberspace, Glover strikes me as soulful and intimate: a man unafraid to get close and wary of anything phony. He shot down all my silly questions; when I asked him if he had any wild dreams about tapping, he said, "I don't have those type of dreams." If his relationship with the music is that intimate and genuine, I'm sure that his work can only bring discovery.

SAVION GLOVER IN CLASSICAL SAVION, BARCLAY THEATER, 4242 CAMPUS DR., IRVINE, (949) 854-4646; WWW.THEBARCLAY.ORG. TUES.-FRI., 8 P.M.; SAT., 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 3 P.M. $42.

 
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