You may have missed Savion Glover’s performances at the White House, on “Sesame Street” or in Broadway’s “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” for which he won a Tony Award for choreography. But chances are you’ve heard Glover’s astounding rhythms, nonetheless, and have had a glimpse of his dancing style in the shape of an animated penguin in the 2006 film “Happy Feet.”

On Nov. 6, Glover will bring his latest show, “STePz,” to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium. Portland Ovations last presented Glover in the 2003-2004 season, in a sold-out double bill with Bobby McFerrin.

“We thought it was high time he returned to Portland,” said Laura Stauffer, Ovations programming associate. “We’re thrilled to have him in (this) season in such an energetic, exuberant new production.”

Glover has been hailed as the greatest tapper of his generation. Providing motion-capture tapping for “Mumble” the penguin seems, in retrospect, like an integral part of his mission to invigorate tap performance and education.

The late Gregory Hines, one of Glover’s mentors, celebrated Glover for bringing tap forward as a contemporary dance form. Glover has helped to expand the musical scope of tap, incorporating hip hop and funk, and has worked to keep tap in public view.

In “STePz,” Glover and a small troupe of dancers pay homage to tap greats – notably the Nicholas Brothers, whose routines included dramatic use of staircases – while showcasing their own individuality.


What you’ll see in “STePz” isn’t the show-tapping of the Rockettes or the suave style of Fred Astaire. Glover’s artistry is firmly rooted in traditional tapping, which focuses strongly on the percussive rhythms of the taps.

During tap’s heyday in the first half of the 20th century, dancers developed individual styles and moves, with constant improvisation leading to choreographic and stylistic innovation. Glover, who studied with tap legends such as Frank Hatchett and Hines, consciously celebrates tradition without getting stuck in the past, creating a marvelous combination of continuity and modernity.

Glover’s own personal style is introspective, perhaps even meditative, and projects youthful exploration and a constant fascination with rhythm and sound quality. One thing to watch for in “STePz” is the variety of sound he and his dancers get from different surfaces, much like drummers moving from tom-tom to snare to bass. In fact, Glover was a young percussionist, already performing with his older brother, when he discovered tap dance at age 7.

“STePz” is likely to be another sell-out at Merrill.

Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer who lives in Saco.

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