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Savion Glover: Tapping Into African-American History Through Dance

  • Written by BREANNA EDWARDS- The Root
Tap
The halls of Washington, D.C.’s historic Howard Theatre will be filled with the haunting tones of jazz as well as the skillful tapping of feet over the weekend, with renowned performer Savion Glover taking the stage to share “the dance.” 
 
“It’s basically going to be myself and a jazz quartet band [the Otherz] and we will of course do some cover tunes … some of the great jazz-music contributors, people like John Coltrane, Miles Davis,” the choreographer and dancer tells The Root. “We will also cover some original tunes.”
Really, the shows, which will run Aug. 23-25, aren’t exactly scripted or planned out. Glover has a pretty casual approach to the dance.
 
“It’s live music and I’m better [experienced] through an improvisational approach to performing. I might just do a whole evening without the musicians, or we may just do one night where we just pay tribute to John Coltrane and just do my favorite things for an hour,” he says, laughing a bit. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We just know that we’re honored to be at the Howard Theatre and we just want to explore the music and ... [express] ourselves.”
 
For what viewers of a Glover show can expect, well, he wants them to tune into the experience more than the expectation, and open themselves up a bit for a different kind of show, “edutainment” as he calls it.
 
“I don’t know what to expect, but regardless, I’m expecting to enjoy myself and explore the music and explore the dance through the music,” he adds. “In a situation like this ... it’s a jazz setting. So jazz is improvisational, we’re not coming as an orchestra with charts and everything like that; we’re just coming as cats looking to explore the music.”
 
The amazingly talented tap dancer describes his approach to dance coming from his own experiences and his own life, something more lyrical.
 
“My approach to tap dancing is definitely the Jimmy Slyde approach to tap dancing, the Gregory Hines approach to tap dancing, meaning this approach is from the African-American experience as people in this country,” he explains. “So we approach the dance similar to how, again, like a musician would approach his instrument, it’s lyrical, it’s more storytelling than it is presentational as far as just tap dancing for the sake of doing a combination or something like that.”
 
“My approach to tap dancing comes from my living experiences and how I’m feeling at the moment. It comes from my experience as a black man in this country,” Glover adds.
 
Men like Slyde and Hines are truly to whom Glover gives credit for creating an African-American tap legacy, and it is this legacy that he tries to honor and express rather poetically through his dance.
 
“I started off as a studio tap dancer ... tap dancing for the sake of combinations and things like that,” Glover, who started dancing at age 7, recalls. “It wasn’t until I met these great men and women of the art form—it was [through them] my life changed and I began to realize more about the dance and what it had to offer and then understand their contributions to the art form, just sort of drew me closer to them and then also closer to the dance, so that the dance became my voice and my muse and my expression.”
 
“It also became my way, continues to be my way, of paying homage to all who have come before me and paved the way for me to do this art form and then to continue their legacies and stories,” he adds.
 
Glover was taught and, again, heavily influenced by many of the greats, like Hines.
 
“I was blessed being born at a time when people like Jimmy Slyde ... were around; I was around them, I was able to love them and know them and learn from them, perform with them, travel with them, and this was my early stages of tap dancing and really understanding what the dance is, so it is only because of them that I exist as I am today ... whether that’s performer, choreographer, tap dancer or musician, it’s only because of the energy, time and love that they shared with me, that’s the only reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing.”
 
And this is the kind of feeling that Glover is looking forward to sharing with attendees at the Howard Theatre.
 
“It’s ... an opportunity to share the dance and allow the viewer or listener to again, better relate to how the dance relates to music or the musicality,” he says. “I know that there’s a widely spread community of tap dancers down in D.C., so I’d extend the invitation ... for them to come on out and enjoy the dance.”
 
Glover’s concerts start at 8 p.m. EDT over the weekend, with doors opening at 6 p.m. for attendees. Tickets range from $35 to $55.
 
Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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