Sole Sanctuary truly is an offering of thanks for the art of tap dance. Savion Glover, the ‘saviour’ of tap, creates an altar to the dance form, proudly hanging images of the greats (among them Hines, Sammy Davis Jr, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown and others) above him while he dances. The stage itself is set up as a raised platform; the first section is named ‘Entering of the Monastery of his Out’ness’ suggesting that the stage itself is the place of worship. Perhaps it is taking the metaphor a little too far to employ a boy to sit in the corner of the stage in a range of praying positions for the entire length of the performance. Yet, we certainly can’t miss the message – tap is to saved, revered and offered up as an awe inspiring and tremendous performing art.
Glover’s tap is more about sounds than about dance and at times it is best to close your eyes and let the rhythms and beats impress themselves onto you. His sense of rhythm is the tap dance version of ‘pitch perfect’ and he creates a percussion performance of exciting variety: the choreography could be as much composition as dance. For a dance lover, the most enjoyable sections involve more structured movements and shapes across the stage, turns, kicks and impressive speed in the feet, beating a ballerina’s bourées en pointe with the precision. Equally aesthetically pleasing are the duos featuring both Savion Glover and Marshall Davis Jr. The perfection of their unison is thrilling followed by the support they give one another through counterpoint during the solo pieces. Marshall Davis dances with great skill in collaboration with Glover and has a solidity and strength to his sounds that create engaging music.
Tap takes on a new life when performed by Savion Glover. All those ghastly memories of tap as ten year old girls in sparkling outfits, glossy tights and fake smiles plastered on their faces, are thankfully washed away by Glover’s dancing. There is an intensity to his movement and a sense of real passion of the sounds and rhythms that he is creating. Up there on the stage he is in his element; he seems to forget that the audience exists and becomes entirely engrossed in what he loves doing: creation. His stamina is exhausting and with the London Marathon in just over a week, we are reminded that dancers such as Glover and Davis have to keep their fitness levels equal to athletes. His feet barely rest for 1 hour and 45 minutes and his focus never wavers.
Sole Sanctuary convinces us that tap is a truly artistic and creative performing art. While the extended metaphor of giving worship to tap through dance names such as ‘The Offering’ and ‘Holy Strings’ is perhaps a little overwrought, there is no doubt that Glover is a remarkable artist who can make music, real music, with his feet.