Heavenly Hoofing

Classical Savion, featuring Savion Glover. At the Lobero Theatre, Sunday, October 1.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

I took my seat beneath dimming lights as Savion Glover hurried onstage in an unbuttoned dress shirt with dangling cuffs. Glover’s tousled look was, I think, intentional. The gangly-limbed, baby-faced dancer has been hoofing for a quarter century — plenty of time to perfect his image while honing a toe-tapping talent unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. His brilliant string ensemble opened with the Presto from Vivaldi’s “Summer,” and Glover immediately started prancing about on his raised stage, shirt flaps flying and dreadlocks bouncing. I kept picturing myself at a formal wedding reception, with Glover as the restless ring-bearer unable to control his impatient limbs. As his feet chattered and jiggled, a grin broke across his face, and beads of sweat began to fly.

Glover may well be hyperactive — I’m not sure how else to explain his ability to maintain such physical intensity for a straight two hours. If anything, his energy built as the evening progressed from baroque to modern, with Glover delighting in the scores as if he was hearing them for the first time. He sometimes spent an entire segment with his back to the audience, fully engaged with the other players in rapid musical dialogue. At certain times, he set the pace, and at others, he followed, alternating between stealing the limelight with comic contrapuntal statements, and slipping into the shadows to allow his musicians to shine.

Glover is a master of timing. Both as a rhythm artist and as a performer more generally, he knows when to lay it on heavy and when to hold back with subtle understatement. He really got down to the frenetic, layered “Scherzo” of a Mendelssohn string octet: knees bent and hunched from the waist, he hoofed out funk beats and scraped his heels against the music’s compositional complexities.

After soaking through two sets of clothing, Glover returned for the third and final portion of the show to jam with each musician in turn, inviting a drummer, pianist, and flautist to join the others onstage for short, ecstatic improvisational sessions, each more mind-blowing than the last. One of the many highlights here was a duet between Glover and the pianist. They riffed off one another with eyes locked, one man’s hands flying as fast as the other’s feet. On my way out after the show, I caught Glover at the stage door, dressed now in baggy cotton and chatting with some excited fans. His jumpy energy confirmed my hunch that it was no stage act — the guy really is just as wired as a puppy.

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