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Flash Report, 7-20: Keeping it Real
Hines and Glover Bring it on for Tap
By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2001 Darrah Carr
My ears are still resonating with
the rhythms of last Thursday's benefit concert for the New York City Tap Festival,
Tap City 2001, held at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street. The event was both a fundraiser
and an awards ceremony honoring the venerable Gregory Hines, recipient of the
inaugural New York City Tap Festival Hoofer Award. Hines accepted his prize graciously
and then treated us to an amazing solo, punctuating his intricate rhythms with
comments and jokes to the audience. This created a casual, intimate performance
that matched the effortless quality of his tapping. As a dancer, Hines is a blend
of complete technical mastery and utterly relaxed execution. Hines made his way
offstage, tapping and gesturing until the lights came down. At that point, quite
unexpectedly, while we were still in the dark, there was a volley of absolutely
thunderous tapping. A follow spot eventually revealed, much to the delight of
both the audience and cast, none other than Savion Glover, whose attendance had
been merely an unconfirmed rumor until then.
Glover is a spitfire performer, delivering
explosive, extremely physical tap. He attacks the surface of the stage, treating
rhythm as if it is something he is driven to both conquer and create. He ended
his restless solo triumphantly, with an expansive back arch, arms thrown wide,
chest open to the spotlight.
As if this wasn't enough excitement,
Hines then returned and the two legends began dancing together -- playing, improving,
riffing off of each other, having fun but remaining extraordinarily focused throughout.
Having performed earlier in the program with the Vanaver Caravan, I was fortunate
enough to be to standing in a balcony to the side of the stage, about 10 feet
away from this incredible interaction. It was probably the most real duet I've
ever seen. Real because it was created right there in front of us. Real because
the relationship between these two was completely believable. We witnessed the
conversation between their feet unfold in the moment. There was no set, no costume,
and no pretense. Just rhythm -- hard, driving rhythm. Complex, layered rhythm.
Rhythm that consumed them and then filled the space around us, so that both the
dancers and the audience were fully present, engaged, and absorbed by the sound.
What is it about rhythm that is so
satisfying? I usually associate rhythm and unison as being an engaging combination
for the audience. Indeed, the success of shows like the Rockettes reviews and
"Riverdance" is a testament to that. But with Hines and Glover, it was rhythm
and juxtaposition that was so powerful. Not only do they have opposite styles
-- Hines being so smooth and Glover being more staccato -- but they built incredibly
complex towers of sound through contrasting rhythms. It was amazing that just
two people, a total of four feet, could produce and than maintain such all-encompassing
sound. It seemed I could feel not just boundless energy, but light and heat emanating
from them. It reminded me of firework displays on the Fourth of July: Just when
you think it must be over, that it can't possibly get any better, even bigger
and more colorful displays appear to delight and surprise you.
The fantastic tap display did eventually
come to an end, though the audience probably could have sat there watching uninterrupted
for another two weeks, mesmerized by Hines and Glover.
As the audience was heading out,
a little boy, no more than three years old, clambered onstage and began bouncing
to the jazz being played over the loudspeakers. He stomped his little sandals,
clapped his hands on the floor, and slapped his knees and thighs in time to the
music. Indeed, he nearly stole the show, or at least started it all over again!
Not only was it adorable, but it was heartwarming, considering that one of the
goals of the festival organizers is to eventually secure a space in New York for
a tap center dedicated to promoting, preserving, and passing the art form on to
the next generation. After last Thursday's performance, with Hines and Glover
at the head and the little boy literally at their heels, preserving tap seems
to be not only an attainable goal, but also an extremely important one.
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