Tap dancer Savion Glover can see the future of his art form. “Where do I see it going? Wherever I am. Tap’s going wherever I am,” he told C-VILLE Weekly in a recent phone interview.
Glover is the modern day face of tap, on a mission to reinvigorate a dance more closely associated with black and white films and vaudevillian acts of yesteryear than with a dreadlocked childhood prodigy from New Jersey.
Perfecting his craft since he was 7 years old, Glover’s dance style simultaneously pays homage to tap’s roots while pushing the form’s contemporary boundaries with an explosive cacophony of rhythm and sound, the limits of which he has yet to see.
“With this performance—as with all of my productions—I try to leave room for as much improvisation as possible. Through improvisation we are able to continue to develop pieces and enjoy ourselves inside of that.”
Glover said he had no real influences when he first started taking the tap classes his mother signed him up for as a kid. But as he developed his own style and studied the greats, like Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde, he realized the dance needed to be embraced by modern culture.
“Tap dance was always the butt-end of a joke,” Glover said in an interview with the YouTube channel THNKR.
“That bothers me and that has bothered a lot of serious tap dancers for many years. So until we can erase those stereotypes and continue to educate the viewer, the listener and the presenter, we will always be faced with those obstacles.”
In a way, Glover’s tapping has already affected Charlottesville and its tap dance scene.
Juanita Wilson Duquette, who runs the Wilson School of Dance, took classes in New York City from the burgeoning star in the late 1980s.
Wilson Duquette said she incorporates some of his teaching methods in her classes. Glover would force students to listen and break down the rapidity of his steps for themselves rather than being walked through each individual movement of his tapping feet.
“He would give us a small segment of sound,” Wilson Duquette recalled of Glover’s classes. “And you had to repeat it. You had to figure out what his feet were doing to make those sounds. If you were having trouble, he would break it down slower, but he wouldn’t tell you exactly what he was doing. You had to figure that out for yourself.”
Glover was a patient teacher, she said, but he required every student to give it her best and pour her heart into the dance steps.
Although he’s gained a bit of notoriety over the years—appearing on “Dancing With the Stars” and heading up the Broadway production of Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk—Glover still finds time to teach at the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap that he founded in Newark, New Jersey, which he describes as his “sanctuary.”
Glover emphasizes that his students should find their own way into the dance so as to discover what makes them feel the most comfortable and natural, while recognizing the history and lineage that made it what it is today.
Wilson Duquette hopes that Glover’s performance at the Paramount, which her school is sponsoring, will help revitalize people’s interest in tap. The Charlottesville area’s tap scene has waxed and waned, she said, but has grown more and more slim in recent years, although it tends to experience a major influx after big performances, like the 1989 feature film Tap, which Glover starred in.
Glover’s latest endeavor, STePz, was lauded by The New York Times as “playful” and “physically reckless, thrillingly so, with no loss of precision.”
In the ensemble, Glover taps his way through a recorded soundtrack that paints the wide expanse of movement, ranging from Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to Prince and the Mission Impossible theme song.
The piece opened at The Joyce Theater in New York City over the summer and has received glowing reviews as he takes it around the country and eventually to England.
Glover says he works best by both allowing a number to develop organically on the dance floor, and by bringing ideas back to his pieces that hit him while he’s not wearing his tap shoes.
“Sometimes I choreograph things once we’ve got all of the players or dancers in the room,” he said from his studio in New Jersey. “Sometimes there are thoughts that I’ve been thinking about, pictures that I’ve been seeing that I’d like to bring to life. It’s a combination of both.”
If the future of tap is going where Glover is going, then it begs the question, where is he headed?
“I don’t know. I don’t know man,” he said with a chuckle. “Hopefully I can continue to grow as a dancer and continue to allow people to understand, or appreciate better, the contributions of some of our greatest entertainers thus far.”
And it just so happens the 39-year-old tap phenomenon is coming to Charlottesville on November 20 to showcase STePz at the Paramount.
“Everything’s in motion, I’m just looking forward to being down there and enjoying the energy,” he said.