More than any tap dancer working today, Savion Glover epitomizes here and now. The 31- year-old virtuoso has never been content with the pat routine. He dances in the moment and on the edge, music unspooling from his extraordinarily gifted feet with the seemingly effortless flow of spontaneous creativity.
That's the whole point of his new show ''Improvography II," which was given its Boston premiere over the weekend by Glover, three younger up-and-coming tappers, and a top-notch quartet of jazz musicians. The title honors Glover's mentor, the late Gregory Hines, who coined the phrase for his own style of spontaneous invention. Glover mines the philosophy with a vengeance.
The former ''Tap Dance Kid" doesn't just dance to the music -- he is the music, his rhythms seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the band. There is a real give and take between Glover and pianist Tommy James, percussionist Brian Grice, bassist Andy McCloud, and wind player Patience Higgins as they exchange leads and trade riffs. But it is mostly Glover who sets the pace, pushing tempo changes and stylistic variations that transition with remarkable fluidity from cool jazz to hard-driving rock, from a delicate little waltz to a get-down funk groove. He plays with the internal beat, spinning cross-rhythms into long phrases that soar above the basic texture, moving in and out of synch with instrumental solos.
He has the whole artistic package -- a dazzling technical facility matched by mature musicality and a vivid imagination.
You can almost close your eyes and just revel in the music, except Glover is so much fun to watch. The antithesis of the face-front, pasted smile hoofer, he dances at times with his back to the audience, communion with the musicians his primary focus. At other times, he's all internal, head bowed, eyes closed, body hunched over, channeling the muse. Then he cuts loose, and his unadulterated joy as he taps into some particularly spectacular rhythm stream is palpable. He hardly ever relaxes, settling into the beat. He's always pushing, finding new rhythms for his feet to take him scooting across stage. And he's not afraid to take it to the edge of balance, with vigorous footwork literally skating him off the raised platform at one point.
Saturday afternoon's packed, 90-minute matinee was Glover at his most personable, talking to the audience, frequently urging appreciation for his cohorts. At several points, he even sang. Though his vocal ability is raw and not always on pitch, it brought a welcome variety, intimacy, and humanity into the show.
A couple of tightly choreographed numbers highlighted the younger dancers Maurice Chestnut and Cartier Williams, both accomplished performers who toured with Glover's ''Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk," and Ashley Deforest, lending the stylings just a hint of feminine fluidity. The best number was a brief bit lit only by an ankle-high corridor of light illuminating the dancers' feet as they skittered across the floor.