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Originally published February 2, 2009 at 6:16 AM | Page modified February 2, 2009 at 12:55 PM

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Dance review | Savion Glover and friends hoof it at the Moore

Dance review: Savion Glover combined the influences of tap masters and jazz greats with the talents of fellow tap dancers Marshall Davis Jr. and Cartier William in "Bare Soundz," a program in which the tap was also the music, at Seattle's Moore Theatre.

Seattle Times theater critic

Dance Review |

The most striking difference between dance trailblazer Savion Glover and the great American tappers who preceded him has been Glover's restless drive to branch out, change it up, hoof out of his own comfort zone.

But in all this restless questing, Glover never cast aside the tap elders who recognized his childhood genius and nurtured it. In his tumultuous show Saturday night at the Moore Theatre, Glover shared the stage with two other fine young dancers, Marshall Davis Jr. and Cartier Williams. But he also communed vigorously with past tappers, and such jazz greats as Thelonious Monk, Count Basie and John Coltrane.

In previous visits to Seattle, Glover has demonstrated his penchant for diversity — dancing in Broadway musicals ("Jelly's Last Jam," "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk"); in concert with inventive vocalizer Bobby McFerrin; and to a classical string quartet playing Bartok and Vivaldi.

On Saturday, Glover and his cohorts stuck mainly to theme and improvised variations in jazz-inspired idioms — from big band to bebop to the "cool" of Monk and early Coltrane. Titled "Bare Soundz," the show used no instrumental music, recorded or live.

Wait, that's wrong. You have to count the fab rhythm section of those six metal-clad feet, which at times sounded like they'd merged into a horn section. Then there was the brief tape-delay bit that had Glover dancing with himself.

The show's first half was a furiously aggressive pastiche — the charge of the tap brigade. The three men, clad in long, flapping shirts of various hues, stamped, stomped and cluster-tapped through "His Rudimentariness" and "Swing In." Their every stomp and hard-punching reveille was amplified by microphones and the boomy hollow wooden dance platforms.

One eventually yearned for subtler stuff — which came after intermission, with the boogie-woogie jam, relay-style "Trading Places" and "Blue Afros," a number that played on Coltrane's "Afro Blue," with wordless singing by Glover.

Throughout, Glover looked ecstatic to be swapping lengthy solos with his comrades and snapping out precomposed phrases with them in drill-team unison. Davis proved himself a lanky, crisply thoughtful mover, at one point spiking his rhythmic reveries with some awesome full-body quaking. And the 19-year-old wunderkind Williams showed off a lighter but very witty touch, phrasing his solos with both flash and nuance.

You had to listen hard to keep up with the "improvography" of this intricate foot music — much the same way you must listen intently to find your way through Coltrane's labyrinthine sax odysseys.

With his muscular phrasing, velocity and sheer kinetic power, Glover seems intrinsically closer to Coltrane than to such late, great Big Band tap smoothies as Honi Coles and Bunny Briggs. But their influence remains, too. He's simply absorbed their elegant, quieter school of jazzy riffing into his own fuller-bodied, more emphatic style — which, by the way, Glover can crank down and ease up in a micro-step.

Most obvious is the inspiration of Gregory Hines, a noted dancer-singer-actor who was a major transitional link between the suave Big Band tappers and Glover's hip-hop hoofer generation. Like Hines, Glover is passionate about mentoring younger dances.

And in his closing number, "Groove G Hines," he nodded affectionately to the lyrical, conversational bravado and sophisticated swinging that was Hines' trademark. It was as if the young Muhammad Ali was paying homage to Cary Grant. In other words, really cool.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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