Not all art is meant to make you feel good. Art can do whatever it wants, but when it gets its audience to smile, laugh and move, well, that’s when it’s contagious. Savion Glover (no relation to Donald, I checked) is a connoisseur of sound. He channels this through his feet while donning a pair of tap shoes. Glover is a Tony Award-winning choreographer whose work has been featured on Broadway and performed by animated penguins, movies “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet Two.” He also started the HooFeRz Club School for Tap in Newark, New Jersey.
Last night at the Krannert Center, Glover presented a conversation sans words, only sounds, featuring Marcus Gilmore – a drummer who has been touring professionally since the age of 16 and hails from Queens, New York. The combination of both of their talents for an hour and a half made for an interactive and at times mesmerizing performance.
What perfected the show was how even though Glover had soaked his loose-hanging button up all the way down the back by the end of it, he never stopped exchanging smiles or laughs with Gilmore the whole way through. This is aside from the fact that Glover barely stopped moving his feet or creating some kind of sound the whole way through. It was obvious he was exhausted but he has been tapping since he was 14 and his love for the art form was flowing off the stage along with the occasional deluge of sweat.
The acoustics within Krannert’s Tryon Theater were perfect for the performance and facilitated almost an echo effect, there was already the sort of call and response between Glover and Gilmore but it was like a third party was somewhere up in the balcony tapping right back at them. The microphones attached to his tap shoes spoke even more to his mastery of tap. He also would pick up a handheld mic from time to time and exclaim, emphasize parts of the rhythm with his voice. One could describe it as captivation by syncopation, something that usually occurs only once in a while in music and will trip up listeners. Imagine listening to syncopated beats, watching them be danced out in front of you in real time for almost two hours.
Each sound his feet made was intentional and magnified, a nightmare for beginning tap dancers who can occasionally get away with faking a step or almost getting it with the exception of one sound for their teachers’ approval.
Watching someone move in such an effortless yet complex way could be unbelievable at some points. But of course you had to believe it, there wasn’t any smoke or mirrors just an elevated platform of wood and two men who looked like they were having the time of their lives keeping the funk, living the funk.
Right before the two returned to the stage for the encore Glover grabbed a mic and said, “I was just reminded— may all your pain be Champaign,” laughing to himself and grinning cheek to cheek. The joy was tangible and shared in the theater, people who say “I can’t dance” or have never slipped on a pair of tap shoes just sitting together in the same space watching two someones who have mastered the art of sound appreciating something they may have never tried with their own bodies, and leaving, inexplicably, lighter than before.