Features DanceQ&A and Interviews Published 27 March 2014

Sharing Energies

Tap legend Savion Glover on SoLe Sanctuary and the role improvisation plays in his work.

Sara Veale

Savion Glover is a tap legend with a bevy of credits to his name across film, TV and theatre. The American dancer and choreographer made his Broadway debut at age 12 and has gone on to work with some of the most famous names in the industry, including the late Howard “Sandman” Sims and Sammy Davis, Jr. Glover’s masterful footwork and emotive style are revered throughout the tap world and in 1996 earned him a Best Choreography Tony Award for hit musical Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk.

When did you decide that being a dancer was something you wanted to do as a career?

It wasn’t until I met the wonderful men and women responsible for what I am as a tap dancer – great artists like Chuck Green and Jimmy Slyde – that I started to consider tap dancing as a career. When I started it was just something to do that my mom had gotten me involved me in. I didn’t think dancing was something I’d continue to do as I developed as a man in this world, until I connected with all these great tap dancers – that was when I realised just what my mother had gotten me into.

How has your personal style changed over the years?

I recognize that my journey as a dancer has seen me grow what used to be an aggressive approach into a more holistic approach to the dance. This growth has come through various roles and my own maturity.

My personal approach to tap continues to evolve as I mature as a man. Whatever my style or approach was yesterday won’t be the same today or tomorrow. Every second of my life I’m developing and learning new things, and I’m confident that whatever point I’m at in my life will show through my dance.

What do you aim to bring to the tap scene today?

I aim to be an educator through dance. I’m conscious of the great contributors that came before me, and I want their legacies and contributions to be remembered through what I do.

Improvisation plays an important role in the tap world. How often do you find yourself employing improv as a creative tool in your work?

It depends, you know? Sometimes there’s room for it in a piece, and other times it’s all about the choreography. With my upcoming show at Sadler’s Wells, SoLe Sanctuary, 95% if not 98% of the production is improvised. The inspiration comes from the music and the different people I’ve met on my journey.

You’ve worked on a lot of film and TV projects during your career – for example, the choreography and motion capture for Happy Feet (2006). Do you find the creative process different when you’re preparing something that’s going to be filmed rather than performed live?

Not really. My whole career has basically been an improvisational exercise. I’ve been in a lot of situations where choreography is not a huge demand. My approach doesn’t change whether it’s film or the stage. On stage we usually do more choreography, but the outcome doesn’t change.

Do you have a favourite project you’ve been involved in or a favourite artist you’ve collaborated with?

I’ve been blessed to collaborate with some of the greatest musicians and dancers that have been created! Everyone I’ve shared energy with is the best.

What prompted you to start HooFeRzCLuB, your tap school in Newark?

Well, a friend of mine was driving by the building and told me it was for sale, and that’s how it all got started. I knew that eventually I wanted to have a school, a place where dancers could come and study and learn about all the great men and women who inspired me, but I didn’t plan to open HooFeRzCLuB when I did; it was just something that happened, and I’m so thankful that it did. We have students here who have the chance to become not only great dancers but great intellectuals in reference to the dance as well.

The critical response to SoLe Sanctuary has been very positive since it debuted in 2011. What inspired you to create the show with fellow tap dancer Marshall Davis, Jr, and what do you hope people take away from it?

With this particular production I wanted to allow the audience to understand my appreciation for the great tap dancers I’ve encountered – my mentors and my teachers. It’s an homage to them, and I hope to give the audience a chance to realise how these dancers have influenced me and Marshall, and how much we appreciate their contribution.

Marshall has been a great friend and collaborator for many years now. In my opinion he’s one of the more intuitive and articulate tap dancers of this generation. I love learning from him. What’s more, he was a student of Steve Condos, so he has a direct link to some very important information that we share and expound on as we perform.

Do you have any advice for young tap dancers hoping to go professional?

My advice to anyone looking to make a career out of this would simply be good luck!

Savion Glover will be performing SoLe Sanctuary at Sadler’s Wells, London, from 3th-6th April 2014.

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Sara Veale

Sara Veale is a London-based copy-editor, published poet and freelance arts critic. After studying dance and literature in her native North Carolina, she swapped the sunlit Land of the Pines for misty England in order to pursue an MA in English at UCL. These days she spends most of her time reading novels, churning out verse and chasing after buses. Her work has appeared across multiple print and online periodicals and in several poetry anthologies, including United Press' Poets in the Spotlight 2013.

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