Savion Glover’s OM, at the Joyce Theater
Savion Glover’s OM
The Joyce Theater
June 25, 2014
Featuring Savion Glover
with Marshall Davis Jr. and Mari Fujivayashi, Keitaro Kosokawa, Olivia Rosenkrantz
Savion Glover’s newest production, OM, is as much a mystical experience as a dancing one. The performance, which spans about seventy minutes with no intermission, begins with a lengthy jazz recording of what I think is Calling by Kenny Garrett, very improvy -sounding and full of saxophone. During this pre-performance period, the audience views the front of the stage lined with small bulbs that seem to flicker in the half-light with a head of Buddha on one side. Finally the curtain is raised, revealing the stage set with hundreds of candles of all sizes, and photos of Glover’s spiritual mentors, some dance figures like Gregory Hines and others more spiritual like Gandhi. I’m not sure where Michael Jackson fits in. Glover, minus his trademark dreads, stood on a small platform in the center where he remained for the entire performance.
Two woman entered from stage right, a man from stage left and several other people of indeterminate gender arrived, sat in the lotus position and stayed there throughout, unmoving. Some of the time, Marshall Davis, Jr., Glover’s long-time collaborator, danced next to Glover.
At the beginning, a spoken word piece that ranged from Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd…”) to selections from other faiths were played to make it clear that the entire piece was about a world-wide longing for spirituality. The program note for Glover says only his name, that he is (hoofer, father, husband), Praise Almighty God and Chaney, I love you, not a lot to go on.
One of the three sequences (The Offeringz, The Prayers and The Resolutionz—I have no idea where one ended and the next began—included what I think is a Hindu chant that went on and on. While Glover danced, the other performers moved their arms or pushed their palms together in the Namaste gesture familiar to anyone who has ever been near a yoga class. For a long time—so long I wondered how he could sustain it—the man on the right, costumed in a white jumpsuit, held a difficult pose in a deep squat, balancing on his toes, knees out at the sides. The lighting remained dim throughout.
Glover is unquestionably a brilliant dancer who has devised steps that no other dancer, except possibly Mr. Davis, can match. No less a talent than Gregory Hines has called him the “best tap dancer in the world.” His rolling tap is unique and, for a while, hypnotic. For most of the performance he barely moved his upper body except in a brief sequence in which his arms moved in front of his body from side to side.
Other than Glover’s truly outstanding talent, the evening was static. Glover says he is using traditional rhythms to “give the audience a transformative journey of the spirit to its ultimate source: the soul” and that he hopes the production helps the audience understand more “about the importance of the divine-ONE.” There was nothing engaging about the experience that brought the audience in, (in fact, quite a few people departed well before the performance was over.) The tapping was loud and penetrating to the point of being intrusive, as though I was on the other side of a rhythmic, pneumatic drill.
At first I was transfixed, marveling at the skill Glover displayed. As time passed and nothing, save differing sequences of complex steps, changed my interest waned and my attention turned to wondering if the candles were real or electric. By the time the curtain came down, I was incredibly glad the performance was over. Interestingly, there was no curtain call. Perhaps Glover is so exhausted he can’t stand up another moment or maybe to acknowledge the audience would intrude on what seemed to be a private moment between him and his spiritual quest.
If you are a deeply spiritual person or a devotee of chanting, the performance may have some meaning. For me it was both too much and too little—too much chanting, too little variety, no sense of joy or fun. I left the Joyce Theater with great admiration for Glover and ears that rang for a good hour afterwards.