With nothing more than plywood and 3 pairs of tap shoes, Savion Glover and his two collaborators will be filling the Meyerson Symphony Center this Sunday with the rhythmic hoofing of his new project, Bare Soundz.
I spoke with Glover on Wednesday, October 6, in preparation for his trip to Dallas to learn a little bit more about the man behind the steel and wood.
Danielle Georgiou: How did you first get into dance, and into tap?
Savion Glover: Through my mother. She signed me up for dance classes when I was seven years old. I started off as a drummer. I was playing the drums for a benefit they were having for Benny Clory [featured dancer in the 1984 film The Cotton Club and Hot Moves (1985)] who had become paralyzed. At that benefit, they said, you can sign up for dance classes at Hines and Hatchet School of Dance [currently known as the Broadway Dance Center] in New York. Coincidentally, that same evening, Lon Chaney and Chuck Green were two of the dancers on the bill, and I was totally blown away by the style of dancing they presented, which I would later on come to know and love as ‘hoofing.’
So, that was it. My mother just signed me up, and I took it from there. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity again to meet Lon Chaney and Chuck Green and all these great men of the dance…Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde…that my life was changed. It shaped the path that I am on now.
DG: Did you study other forms of dance?
SG: I studied jazz and ballet. Well, I can’t even say I studied…I took jazz and ballet classes. But my main study was tap dance.
DG: There is a large community of aspiring dancers here in North Texas, what advice would you give them for pursuing dance as a career, or for breaking into the industry?
SG: Oh gosh…My career has been by invitation only. I’m just blessed and fortunate to be in the public’s eye. I didn’t want to be in show business. It’s not like someone said, ‘Hey, you should be in show business,’ or someone gave me a push…
DG: Right, show business is one of the hardest industries to get involved in. It’s a more ‘who you know’ world. But as a dancer, how do you stay relevant, and continue to mature as a dancer, while working?
SG: Continue to study. Always study. And know that if you want to get into show business, that’s what it’s going to be, show business. But if you want to advance your knowledge as a dancer, then continue to do that. Continue to learn from the greats…from whomever we may have left. Don’t go studying with some young person whose fame has come through YouTube or some TV show. Don’t go that way! [Laughter] Go find the oldest person you know and have lunch, go speak to them, go to their homes, sit with them…watch what they eat, listen to what they say, listen to the music that they play, and just study them as people.
If you’re young, don’t be encouraged by anyone younger than you. That may sound a little harsh now but you’ll understand that as you grow.
DG: I think that’s great advice. It’s so much about education, and it all stems from being introduced to the arts at an early age and from having arts programs in schools. How do you feel about the state of arts education today? What do you think is the best way of getting children involved in the arts?
SG: I think arts education is one of the most important elements to one’s growth. Unfortunately, here where I’m from [New York/New Jersey area], I hear that they are taking the arts out of schools and that’s really unfortunate because without the arts I feel that the kids miss out on this way of expressing themselves. Sure, we can always express ourselves through sports and other things, but a lot of times people look forward to that Friday arts class…
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and I really don’t know what’s going on, but I speak from what I hear. I hear that these things are missing from the schools. I wish they would bring them back. If not bring them back, I encourage the parents to continue to introduce their children to artistic prominence…to artistic works, to the theatre, opera, museums, things like this…things that would interest and encourage one by sight to become more expressive.
I would like to promote bringing the arts back as part of education, because art is educational. Under the tutelage of proper teachers, we can advance as people, and as artists.
DG: We’re feeling that same pressure here in Texas with the removal of many arts classes from public schools, and it’s something that I have to personally deal with as an arts educator at the college level. It’s almost like starting from scratch because for many of my students it’s their first opportunity to explore the arts.
SG: It’s kind of disheartening.
DG: Absolutely. And a lot of it stems from the recent cuts in funding for the arts, and it’s not just affecting school programming, but individual artists are feeling the economic pressures too. How have you dealt with it?
SG: I’m happy, first of all, that venues, like the Meyerson and others, still want entertainment, and will actively pursue it. And, I’m happy to be a part of that lineage, so I really haven’t had to deal with the economic pressures. But I know how difficult it can be to look for places to do your work. I’ve just been extremely lucky that people still want to bring me in to perform.
DG: Well, I know that a lot of people are excited to see your work this weekend. Can you tell me a little bit more about your recent collaborative project, Bare Soundz? How did the three of you come together?
SG: I’ve known Marshall Davis, Jr. for over 20 years. We had a relationship with the great Steve Condos [Davis was one of his students and Glover was under his tutelage], so we connected there. As we continued to stay in touch, we started to do several different productions, Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk being one, and concerts together. So, when it was time to create this production, our partnership just came about…
If it’s not Broadway…my productions are basically a phone call. I call some people, whether it be musicians or dancers, and see if they want to be a part of it. It’s not like there’s an audition process. These productions are more personal…So, I just called him [Davis] up and we got together. We have a new dancer, well, new to this project, we just recently met him over the past year or so, and he is going to be joining us for this production in Dallas.
DG: In the show, you present tap in this stripped down, non-nuanced, non-narrative manner and I find that interesting because as a choreographer myself, it can be intimidating to present such a bare-bones look at dance and such an intimate performance. Do you think that staging it this way, as opposed to the more Broadway style performances you’ve done in the past is going to the invite the audience in?
SG: [Chuckling] I would hope that it does! Lately, my productions have been those non-Broadway productions, and they have been sort of personal messages, personal notes to myself…I guess, my personal agenda to just advance the art form; to advance the listener’s attention to the dance.
Like you said, it’s not about it being these big sets, or scenery, or anything like that. It’s basically an education…I feel that tap should be experienced, enjoyed, and heard without the additional instrumentation, the music…so the listener, the audience, can understand and relate to the dance.
DG: That’s wonderful! I’m a huge admirer of tap. I’m a modern dancer, and tap is like a whole other world to me, but I enjoy watching it. And watching it in the way that you are presenting it opens a lot of people’s minds to understanding the rhythm and musicality of tap. Do you think you will continue to present tap in this format?
SG: Thank you. Yes. I won’t be doing any large-scale productions, you know, with sets and music, unless it’s Broadway or something like that, with an additional director or producer. For now, I’m happy producing my own productions, which are more educational than spectacle. So, that’s going to be it…As long as the presenters and the venues will accept my being in existence, then I’m going to continue to bring education, what I like to call ‘edu-tainment,’ to the audience versus spectacle.
DG: With dance making it’s way back onto film and television, and now with the proliferation of online programming, do you feel as if there has been an increase in awareness of the art form, and of the performing arts in general?
SG: I don’t watch any of the shows, but from my knowledge, it’s less educational and more of a blur! I think it’s the wrong direction for dance…
The shows that I grew up, things like Fame and Star Search…I think they gave the audience more of an education because they prominent people who were the judges; they had dance educations and backgrounds…and shows like Fame, promoted arts in schools and dance training…these shows today have left that idea behind.
DG: I understand where you are coming from. The commercialization of dance has grown exponentially recently…but aside from that, where do you see the future of tap going?
SG: As far as I’m concerned, it’s going nowhere. It’s staying right where it is. It doesn’t need to go anywhere. A lot of dancers are out for success. I mean, fame for themselves versus the dance itself. Again, it’s unfortunate that when I look at the clips people put online or the things that I see…they aren’t advancing the dance; people are advancing themselves…
I don’t where [tap] is going as far as the young dancers are concerned. But if I have anything to do with it, it’s staying right here with me!
DG: I think that’s right where it belongs.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents the Tony Award-winning tap dancer in his latest touring show, Bare Soundz, this Sunday only at the Meyerson Symphony Center. 2301 Flora St., Dallas. Show: 8:00pm. $35-$80. 214-692-0203.
The DSO is also hosting a contest for all aspiring dancers and dance fans to win a chance to meet Savion Glover. All you have to do is submit a 30 second video clip of your best dance moves, and one lucky contest winner will walk away with two front row seats, a signed pair of the artist’s tap shoes and the chance to meet the dancing great in person with an exclusive backstage meet and greet after the performance.
The contest ends tomorrow, Friday, October 8 at 12:00pm, so get your videos in now! No purchase necessary to enter or win the contest.