By Rachel Straus
But Glover wasn’t always the smiling kind. In his earlier years, following his choreography for the 1996 Tony award-winning show Bring in Da Noise Bring in Da Funk, he took to covering his face with his signature dreads. He concentrated on bringing hip hop rhythms from the street and the club into his feet and onto the concert stage without affectation and with a musical ferocity that labeled him a percussionist who happened to be tap dancer. Yet sometime in the early part of this decade, Glover shifted from looking down and inwards to looking out and into us. Consequently, he evolved into one of the most generously sincere performers of his day. With that open smile, Glover can do no wrong, even when his 2004 show Improvography missed its mark for incorporating recorded sound and involving an ensemble too large to adapt to his style.
In Bare Soundz Glover returns to the purity of his signature percussive tap work, which he has developed since his childhood and which follows on the heels of the late Gregory Hines’s street-dance style. On Wednesday, underneath three spotlights, Glover and two of his favorite fellow performers, Marshall Davis Jr. and Maurice Chestnut, step-heeled, cramp rolled, dragged and side shuffled with polyphonic supersonic complexity, comic swagger and with pizzicato, pulsating, mesmerizing intensity. There was no backup music, no narrative, no razzle-dazzle costumes. These men don’t need it. In the segment AKA Punk Rocker, the combination of the Glover’s tap blasts and tonal changes transformed him into a beat boxer. His toes became his pucker.
Over the course of the 80-minute show, Glover’s feet sounded out flutes, trains, erupting volcanoes, pattering rain, stories about coming and going, doing and dithering. As an ensemble work, the men in casual Friday silk shirts and cream-coloured pants demonstrated a unison work that rivalled the best of ballet companies’ corps dancing. But my attention, time and again, shifted to Glover because he exuded so much joy, because he is the creator of this work and because when he dances a collage of music (Caribbean, b-bop, hip hop, swing and funk) passes through the eyes, the ears and the oldest of percussive instruments, the heart.