Insider: In Town

By Kay Kipling February 1, 2011

Savion Glover, now 37, made his Broadway debut at age 12 in The Tap Dance Kid. But this master of tap and percussion dancing really burst on the scene with his stint in the acclaimed musical Bring in ’da Noise/Bring in ’da Funk in 1996. He comes to the Van Wezel Feb. 22 with his new show, SoLo iN TiME; we asked him about that and his future in tap. (For tickets, call 953-3368).

Q. In this new show, you’ve working with flamenco music and rhythms. Was that a longstanding interest of yours?

A. I’ve always had an interest in it, but for the last five years I’ve had the pleasure of some close encounters with flamenco dancers and musicians. I don’t do flamenco dancing myself, but I match my dance to the flamenco music. Tap dancing can be done to any kind of music.

Q. So how long have you been rehearsing this project?

A. I don’t really like to rehearse. I know what the tunes are, and beyond that I just like to know who’s going be there. I like to be surprised, like I’m on the other side of the curtain with the audience. My plan is to have no plan.

Q. You mean you just improvise once you’re on stage?

A. I just express myself. I’ve had the privilege of being onstage with some great musicians, and it’s all about trust. It’s like jazz, the way it’s improvised. So every show I do is different.

Q. You had such success at such a young age. Do you ever feel like you have to keep topping yourself?

A. I never thought about topping myself. I can’t top myself. It’s just about maintaining excellence.

Q. Do you dance every day?

A. No, but dance is my life. I live it. What you see on stage is my life in that moment. I think dance; I dream in stereo. I am dance, 24/7.

Q. Did you always think about dance that way?

Q. No, I started just taking dance lessons as a boy, and you, know, preparing for the annual student showcase. But in my early 20s, as I started to work with men like Gregory Hines and Buster Brown, I became more aware of the musicianship behind dance. That changed my mentality and my thinking about dancing.

Q. Were there dancers you idolized growing up in Newark?

A. No, I didn’t know anything about that. My Saturday mornings were spent watching Bruce Lee, not Gene Kelly. But later, these men [like Hines] were my influences.

Q. You teach dance at your school in New York now.

A. I try to give the kids a meaning of dance, vs. a step or a routine. I’ll teach any age kid, as long as they know what “yes” and “no” mean.

I stopped teaching what you may know as tap classes several years ago. I’m just happy with the experience of sharing the knowledge and information I have with the students; it keeps my spirits alive knowing the stories I know will go on to be told.

Q. No end to tapping for you in sight?

A. I’m like the game of basketball: The dance gets better. You know [NBA star] Grant Hill? He’s one of the oldest basketball players around, and he’s just gotten better. I come from knowing dancers who at 92 were doing things I couldn’t do at 16 or 17. So I’m looking forward to those years.

Q. One last question: Where did your name, Savion, come from?

A. My mother wanted to name me Savior, but that went against her religious beliefs. So she named me Savion, so us boys would all have names ending in “on.” One day when I was about 14, she and I were in Paris and this lady came up to us and asked “Do you know what a savion is?” She showed us pictures of these tulips that grow in Israel; those are savions.

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