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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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