Bare Soundz anything but boring

When the lights brightened on the Centennial Theatre stage on November 4, three men, each on their own raised platform stood silent and ready. In the centre, in a red dress shirt with his impressive set of dreads tied back, was Savion Glover, a dance legend, finally in Vancouver.

Glover is a tap dancer who is globally recognized as the best of the best. Outside of the dance world he is most known for being the choreographer in the movie Happy Feet. He has also been in many other dance movies and as a child was a regular on Sesame Street. His latest show, Bare Soundz, showcases his talent in all it's glory, and was brought to Vancouver by Centennial Theatre and the Vancouver Tap Dance Society.

Like the name Bare Soundz suggests, the tap is bare, stripped of any embellishment that the shoes themselves can't make. Though the choreography is cut down to pure rhythm without any music, it's anything but simple. Tap rarely is, but Glover is a master.

Even for dancers, the show could potentially have been boring. An hour and a half of percussion? Not necessarily the recipe for entertainment. However, it was pleasantly surprising. The three performers that were part of the show kept things interesting and the sheer genius of the rhythms they created kept the audience paying attention the entire time.

When Glover and the two other dancers, Marshall Davis Jr., and Keitaro Hosokawa began, the beat was primal and passionate. It sounded like it should be a soundtrack to the Discovery Channel. Sections evoked images of bushwhacking through the jungle, dodging giant bugs, pythons and leopards. Other sections felt like they should be paired with shots of soaring over Australian plateaus and stampeding buffalo.

Glover even sang in a couple numbers, bringing a more human element to the brilliant rhythms, transitioning the show into sections of tap jams, where the dancers trade moves, partially improvising as they go along. Davis Jr. and Hosokawa were impressive as they pulled out all the stops in their solos, bringing out the flashy moves and smooth transitions from one dancer to next, even as they all took turns stepping up to dance on only one of the three platforms. When neither was the one giving a solo, they hung back, grooving to the beat of the other dancers feet.

The rhythms became more jazzy and relaxed from the tribal intensity of before, and the dancers faces showed more of how much they enjoyed tap. They laughed together and showed their creativity in how they took a move one dancer did and adapted it, adding their own flair, like Davis Jr., who seemed to favour a driving beat with little embellishments, and added that to some of the tricks Glover and Hosokawa did. Meanwhile, Glover took that rhythm and played with it while using an echo machine, drawing it out and taking it in new directions.

The echo machine seemed to be almost an onstage decision, as Glover was directing an unseen stagehand as to when to turn it on and off. That, paired with the more improvised sections, could have made the $60 ticket to the show seem like a rip-off, but it was easy to see how hard these dancers were working. Rivulets of sweat flew off Glover's forehead when he moved too suddenly. By the end of the show, his shirt was drenched.

There is no doubt in my mind that Glover is an amazing dancer, but I'm not so convinced of how good a mentor or inspiration he is for young dancers. Glover had scheduled two workshops for dancers at the Vancouver Tap Dance Society, the group that collaborated with Centennial theatre to bring him to Vancouver in the first place. Both workshops were cancelled without clear explanations as to why.

Alexandra Clancy, one of the students who had signed up for the workshops was disappointed to hear they had been cancelled. “I had been looking forward to the class for weeks ... to being able to learn a bit from Savion personally other than by watching and learning from his incredible show.” The last minute cancellation left a bit of a bitter taste for some students. “It kind of made me appreciate him a little bit less and not love the show as much as I would have,” Clancy said. His show was great, but having the courtesy to share some of his incredible understanding of tap with the people who brought him here would have made it even better.

//Yette Gram

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