If you'll be in New York City any time from now until July 6th 2013, don't miss the chance to see Savion Glover's one-of-a-kind evening of tap, "STePZ", at the Joyce Theater on 8th Avenue at 19th Street. As most of you know, he's the Tap Dance Kid all grown up, the boy wonder who dazzled on Broadway at the age of 12 and went on to become what the late tap legend Gregory Hines called "possibly the best tap dancer that ever lived."
STePZ, a fast-paced production featuring Savion plus a first-rate cast of four, does not disappoint. However, don't expect a full-scale tap drama reminiscent of "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk", which premiered on Broadway in 1996. This summer's offering is an intimate concert piece suited to the venue and, for me, eminently satisfying. I was thoroughly enthralled by the mix of virtuosity, humor, and nods to tap history such as the poignant Bo Jangles number. What's interesting, though, is that my companion for the evening seemed somewhat baffled. She's a balletomane but not a dance insider and I got the feeling she was expecting "glam tap", as in the Rockettes' routines or "42 Street" or even "Tap Dogs." Instead, Savion served up what the theater's web site accurately called "an exuberant celebration of tap dance to sound and sound to dance . . . fusing traditional music selections of the past with his self-proclaimed tap style and energy of the future."
Costuming was minimalist, with the talented hoofers often simply slipping on various T-shirts or jackets that they retrieved from on-stage coat racks. For one number, everyone wore some version of black and white but beyond that there was no attempt at uniformity. In the same vein, the dancers were diverse in ethnicity and body type, a typical and welcome aspect of Savion's mission over the years.
Savion's longtime colleague, Marshall Davis, Jr., was superb. Yet in duets with Savion, Marshall was no match for the innate showmanship Savion pours out over the footlights. As for the women, a tip of the hat to all of them: Ayodele Casel, Robyn Watson, and Sarah Savelli.
Highlights for me included the tap challenges up and down sets of wooden stairs, Savion's solos when he makes more sounds than would seem humanly possible with just two feet, and a marvelous ballet spoof complete with the women pretending to turn by circling their index fingers just as we all do when we're marking in class. Because that's an in joke, I had to explain it to my friend but the dancers in the audience roared with appreciation.
Speaking of audience reactions, there was love aplenty with applause and shouts of approval throughout the show and a standing ovation at the end. I'm of the opinion that dancegoers have generally gotten too raucous of late and that standing ovations are losing their impact because they are no longer rare. Even so, I can't deny that the enthusiasm was genuine and contagious. I hope you'll get a chance to see the show, and possibly bring along your out-of-town students if you're shepherding a group around the Dance Mecca of the World. On that note, why not fit in a class at Savion's studio, HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap in Newark, New Jersey?
Here's to a wonderful dancing summer for one and all!