Savion Glover

I almost didn’t go to this show. Savion Glover, at the Théatre de la Ville. I’d had a tiring day, Paris is kind of hot and sticky at the moment, and navigating public transportation has been no fun at all. I saw Savion Glover in San Francisco about 10 years ago, and I was rationalizing to myself, well, I’ve seen him, you know…

But then, as I was starting to look to see what 3nd rate TV I could watch at home that night, I realized I was being completely ridiculous and I should just go to the show. So I did.

Holy. Fuck.

I am experiencing all kinds of frustration in trying to find some representation of Glover’s art that will do it justice. There simply is none, because although he’s a tap dancer, his art is really more about sound than movement, but yet he is continually represented in video rather than audio recordings. But here are a couple of videos that give you a sense. In the second he is joined by Marshall Davis, who also was at last night’s show.

You may not even know who Savion Glover is, which is a tragedy. Gregory Hines called him the greatest tap dancer of all time–surely true. He was a genuine prodigy, discovered young and performing professionally by 12. Here he is being interviewed by Jimmy Slyde at age 15:

What a frick’n cutie! He still maintains that kind of humility and charm. Adorably, he ended last night’s show by jumping down off stage and wandering among the audience, shaking hands, turning to applaud his accompanying musicians on stage.

Earlier in the day I had met with my writing group, one of whom is a musicologist, and so I had been thinking about the longstanding philosophical tendency to cast music as the purest of all the arts. Schopenhauer is usually cited in this regard:

Schopenhauer . . . argued that music has a truly exceptional status among the arts and uniquely reveals the essence of the “in itself” of the world. Music that affords such insight—the only music he deems worthy of the name—is Classical/Romantic, non-programmatic music without a text, or what was termed late in the 19th century, “absolute music.” Unlike all of the other arts, which express or copy the Ideas (the essential features of the phenomenal world), Schopenhauer affirmed that music expresses or copies the will qua thing in itself, bypassing the Ideas altogether. This puts music and the Ideas on a par in terms of the directness of their expression of the thing in itself (WWR I, 285). —Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

I didn’t have Schopenhauer in mind, but as I watched–listened–to Glover perform, I did keep thinking that it was the purest art I had ever experienced, which is to say, it can’t really be written about. If you ever have a chance to see Savion Glover perform, don’t miss it.

Finally, here’s Glover as Mumble, in Happy Feet:


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