In the Music

Savion Glover Taps Out the Information

Ti Dii does mark one important development: Women make up half the company. Glover's first group was all-male; his second included one woman. The best feature of the recent Noise/Funk tour was the addition of Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. When Glover traded phrases with her, or partnered her in a new, all-too-brief tap Lindy, you could see he'd met his match and was grateful for the challenge. Glover's choreographic use of gender difference hasn't yet grown beyond cute (here come the ladies!), but the inclusion of so many hard-hitting women shows a willingness to find talent wherever it appears. The company is also mixed-race.

Glover's greatest gifts, of course, lie not in choreography but in solo improvisation. And it is an improviser that he continues to mature. Hines taught him that tap dancing was drumming; these days he compares himself to a horn player and dances to the music of John Coltrane. Like Glover, Coltrane started out as a faithful apprentice only to emerge as a revolutionary, pushing many of the same boundaries—density, intensity, duration. Even when farthest out, Coltrane held fast to his roots. If, as Glover has remarked, the good kind of experimentation is "in the music," Coltrane showed the way, but that approach is unlikely to fill arenas.

"Improvography," the title Glover's chosen for his evenings at the Joyce, is apt. Hines coined the word to label his own mix of set steps ("pocket steps," hoofers call them) and spur-of-the-moment invention. The title, then, is an homage to a father figure, a description of method and a recognition of the challenges that face Glover as an artist.

Hoofers used to distinguish between the "closed style" they shared with each other in back rooms and the "open style" you needed to make it big. Such distinctions became irrelevant when the work dried up, but didn't disappear. In a sense, Savion Glover's career is an attempt to defy the old formula. One hopes that someday he'll be able to ignore it.

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