There is much to be said for not only mastering one’s craft but also being the very best at it.
So it is with Savion Glover, royalty in the world of tap dancing, choreography and instruction, and a man who has followed tradition while at the same time adding many fresh, original elements, essentially creating a new tap genre. He is an artist in the truest since of the world and he has style.
And before going any further, it should be noted that it is rather difficult to grasp that Glover, who first came to the public’s attention as a child performer, will be 41 in November.
One of the things that have always set Savion Glover apart from most young entertainers is the respect and admiration he has for those who came before him. Highly skilled dancers such as Cholly Atkins, Honi Coles, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers, Bunny Briggs, Harold “Sandman” Sims, John Bubbles and Bill Bailey.
IN FACT, Glover likes to be thought of as a continuation of the legacy of these and many other dancers, not all of whom have names as familiar as those cited above.
“I do what I do to represent the tap dancers responsible for my journey in this world as a contributor through dance,” he said.
One of Glover’s special heroes is the late, great Gregory Hines. The two had the opportunity to work together in the 1989 film “Tap” that also featured another dancing great, Sammy Davis Jr.
Gregory Hines and Savion Glover had a mutual admiration society, and Hines was lavish with his praise of young Savion.
“Savion is possibly the best tap dancer that ever lived,” he said. “He has redefined tap dancing and it can never be the same again.”
This coming from one of the finest performers in the history of tap, whose name is almost synonymous with the dance form. Hines reached the heights as a solo artist and, before that, as part of the famed trio Hines, Hines & Dad.
TO SAY the least, Glover was flattered by Hines’ words and a bit embarrassed as well.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Savion Glover has been dancing since he was seven years old. His mother had noticed something special in him and decided to make a move.
“My mother signed me up for classes and for me at the time it was just something to do,” said Glover. “We were living in New Jersey, traveling to New York every Saturday for class. My relationship with dance really began when I performed in a musical revue in Paris in the 1980s.”
Savion was 10 in 1985 when he made his Broadway debut in “The Tap Dance Kid.” Although the reviews of the show itself were just so-so, “The Tap Dance Kid” was nevertheless a key element in Glover’s ascension.
Interestingly, Alfonso Ribeiro, also an outstanding dancer, starred in the same show two years prior.
Glover’s subsequent Broadway shows were “Black and Blue” (1989), “Jelly’s Last Jam” (1992), for which he won a Tony Award nomination, and “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk” (1996), which brought him his second nomination for a Tony, and this time he took the coveted trophy home.
THICK SKIN is a requirement for anyone embarking on a show business career. If you don’t have it, as one famous actress noted, you will never make it in that business.
A reporter once asked Glover what was the worst thing anyone had ever said to him, and he didn’t have to ponder the question.
“That I would not succeed in show business,” he said. “This was said very early on when I was 12 and shopping around for agents and managers.”
Fortunately, Glover was not inclined to listen to the naysayers, among the many things he reveals in his 2000 autobiography, “Savion! My Life in Tap,” published by HarperCollins.
In addition to the stage and the big screen, Glover has maintained a consistent presence on television. He is appeared in approximately 20 TV specials, among them “The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts,” “Vanessa Williams & Friends: Christmas in New York,” “Tap Dance in America,” “The First 50 Years, Quincy Jones,” “Slide and Swing with Savion Glover,” “Barbra Streisand – Timeless” and the 53rd Presidential Inaugural Gala.
Gratitude is one of the attributes that have made it possible for Savion Glover to make it as far as he has, with much more yet to accomplish.
“I think God every day I’m able to do what I do,” he said. — SVH