The King of Tap discusses his latest show “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover” and his spiritual approach to the art form.
Mr. Time, Master of Tap, Living Legend. Savion Glover has been called all these things—and for good reason. Glover has taken tap dancing to another level in terms of technique and style, bringing tap to the forefront of pop culture.
Glover is most recognized for his 1995 musical Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, which he won a Tony Award for best choreography in 1996. He has also appeared in films such as Tap (1989), Bamboozled (2000) and Happy Feet (2006). In 2006 he started his own production company, which oversees his HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap.
Glover will be bringing his funky, hard-hitting style and amazing rhythms to the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth on Nov. 1, with his new show “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover.” In this TheaterJones interview, Glover talks about his approach to tap dance, “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover” and his views on tap’s past, present and future.
TheaterJones: What are some of the misconceptions people have regarding tap dance?
Savion Glover: Tap dance is associated with such a touchy and funny history that the conception hasn’t really changed. I do come across some people who understand my approach to the dance to be different from the early beginnings of tap, which was just for the sake of entertainment. Until we can get people on a level of understanding about what tap dance is than the conception will always be what it was—a form of entertainment. But we’re slowly coming around.
What first drew you to tap dance?
My early approach to the dance was going to dance classes. At the time I had no mental connection to the art form. It was not until my later years when I began to become a student of the dance and a student of these great masters of the dance. It was then I started to realize how important the dance was to music and vice versa.
Growing up did you know your tapping ability was different from others?
No. As far as I’m concerned I was only doing what I’d been taught by Jimmy Slyde, Dianne Walker and Steve Condos. At that time I didn’t consider my dancing to be any different from anyone else’s. Again, it wasn’t until I continued to dance and saw the young dancers coming up that I realized my approach to the dance was different.
What inspired you to do “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover?”
Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, Henry Le Tang, Charles “Cholly” Adkins, Charles “Honi” Coles, Dianne Walker, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama. All of my productions are inspired by these great men and women of the world who worked to inspire peace and love and a sense of spirituality; not necessarily a sense of religion. That is what my productions are based around. Hopefully we get that message across in “A Classical Encounter.”
Why is the show called “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover?”
America tells us that only Bach and Beethoven and people like this are classical musicians. But I believe people like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington are also classical musicians. “A Classical Encounter” is basically an evening with myself and a vocalist dealing with what the world understands to be classical music and what I personally feel is classical music. It’s to remind us that classical music is not just in one genre. Classical music stems from beyond just one genre or area of music.
How would you describe your approach to dance and your dance style?
My style is tomorrow. My style is next week. My style is the future. I don’t know what my style is today. My approach to the dance is spiritual. I approach the dance like John Coltrane approaches his horn. I hope that through my dance I can deliver a message of peace and love. I stopped dancing many years ago for the sake of applause, for the sake of entertainment. My approach now is more “Edutainment” than entertainment.
When you’re teaching, how much of your class is technique and how much of it is theory?
My classes are more discussing the history of the dance and the pioneers responsible for us dancing today. Many years ago I stopped teaching these dance classes where you would just go in and teach steps for an hour. I haven’t done that in more than 10 years. I spend a lot of time talking to the students about the dance, and trying to help them understand why they want to dance or why they want to take a class with me. Do they connect with me the teacher at that point or do they not connect with me. If they do not connect then maybe that means their reasons for dancing are not decided yet. But if they do connect I feel that some of them have come to the conclusion that they want to do this. They want to express themselves versus expressing some dance steps they learned from a teacher.
What do you want the audience to take away from “A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover?”
I want them to take away whatever they take away. I don’t want to suggest anything. I would just suggest that they enjoy the moment and take away whatever they learn and feel.
Are you optimist about the future of tap dance?
Because of the history of the dance I don’t know that the conception or people’s views of this dance will change. I’m hopeful that people will come around. There’s still prejudice in the world. There’s still greed. There’s still anger. I am optimistic about all of these things. The dance just falls into this area of life. I believe as long as we see each other as these different colors and these different cultures than we will continue to deal with this issue about dance and what it is. I am a man of prayer and I believe that maybe not in my lifetime, but hopefully we will all get to a level where we see past color and skin tone and see the spirit and the heart of one other.
What advice to you have for up-and-coming tappers?
Be true to yourself and the art form and you will be fine. Just know that we can’t change these things that have already been established. You can’t change air. Air will always be air. Many people may come and take in the air. Many people will join the army, but the army fatigues never change. So, we have to know that we are here to take part in what has already been established. We are here to lend our contribution to it for the time being. If you have the notion that you’re going to change it just know that you’re going to do something different. You’re not doing what has been done. So call it something different.
This feature was originally published on TheaterJones.