Glover, Savion 1974–
Savion Glover 1974–
Dancer and choreographer
“I think Savion is the greatest tap dancer that ever lived,” Gregory Hines told National Public Radio (NPR). Actor-dancer Hines—himself one of the most esteemed modern tap masters—found in his young colleague, Savion Glover, the form’s true genius. Glover, a Broadway star by his adolescence, has performed with--and by some accounts has eclipsed--some of the world’s most famous hoofers. After a stint on television’s Sesame Street, he helped assemble the hit Broadway show “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk,” helping to convey his insistence that tap is a vital, contemporary form, not a quaint relic of black-and-white movie musicals. “His tap dancing is a revelation of virtuosity, and more important, of expressiveness,” ventured Aileen Jacobson in Newsday. “He telegraphs emotions, stories, and history with his feet.”
USA Today pointed out that Glover “grew up performing on Broadway, but he never really was of Broadway.” Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, by his mother, Yvette—herself a performer—he found his direction at an early age. “I grew up playing football and basketball on the street, riding my bike, playing hide-and-go-seek,” he recalled. His mother served as his manager when he made his first forays into show business and made certain that he was not deprived of a normal boyhood. But, Glover declared to Peter Castro in People, “If I didn’t have the dance to express myself, I would probably be stealing your car or selling drugs right now. I got friends who do that, but tap saved me.”
At age four, Savion took drum lessons. His mother had no choice, given his predilection for lining up pots and pans in the kitchen and banging on them. His percussive bent later manifested itself in his forceful dancing, and many years later, percussionists would replicate his kitchen drumming on a Broadway stage. “The beat is basically what takes you through life,” the dancer reflected to Charlayne Hunter-Gault of television’s The News Hour, “you know, whether we have an up-tempo beat or a slow beat. It’s just a beat. There will always be the beat, you know, and there’s rhythm in everything.”
Glover began taking tap classes at the Broadway Dance Center in New York City when he was seven years old. “I remember my first day,” he recalled to Castro. “My mom couldn’t afford dance shoes, so she put me in these
At a Glance …
Born 1974, Newark, NJ; son of Yvette Glover, a singer.
Dancer, c. 1985–. Appeared in Broadway productions “The Tap Dance Kid” (1985), “Black and Blue” (1989) “Jelly’s Last Jam” (1992), and “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk” (1995); appeared in film “Taps,” 1988; appeared on television series Sesame Street, 1991-95 and programs “Dance in America: Tap!,” “Black Film-makers Hall of Fame,” and “The Kennedy Center Honors;” performed at Academy Awards ceremony, 1996.
Awards: Tony Award, Best Choreography, 1996, for “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk;” Dance Magazine Award, 1996; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1996; Best New Theater Star, Entertainment Weekly, 1996.
Addresses: Home –Montclair, NJ.
old cowboy boots with a hard bottom so I could get some sound out. I used them for seven months. When I finally got real tap shoes, I was nervous. I kept moving my feet, thinking, ’Oh, so this is how it’s supposed to sound.’” He was 12 when he appeared in “The Tap Dance Kid” on Broadway, proving himself to be a prodigy. Yvette remembered the impact of her son’s stardom on the neighborhood. “The limo would pick him up in Newark and take him to Broadway,” she informed Castro. “Even the neighborhood drug addicts were so proud of Savion.”
“I did [“Kid”] for about a year and a half, maybe two years,” he told the Oakland Post. “Then I went on to do Jazz Tap Festivals, which led to performing in ’Black and Blue’ in Paris, France.” The production later moved to Broadway and further solidified the young dancer’s reputation. While in “Black and Blue,” Glover noted in USA Today, “they said I couldn’t ride my bike anymore, couldn’t play football, couldn’t do this and that.” Yvette’s intervention, however, convinced the producers to change their minds. His relative freedom apparently did not hamper his performance; he earned a Tony Award nomination for his work in the show.
Glover won plaudits as well for his work in the film “Taps,” which saw him hoofing alongside legendary entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. Once again, his mother was along to make sure the right environment prevailed on the set. Glover told the Oakland Post, “initially there was a lot of bad language in the script and she didn’t want me to do it. They changed it. That usually doesn’t happen.” He added, “No matter what, my mom was my main support.”
Glover next wowed audiences in the stage production “Jelly’s Last Jam,” in which he portrayed jazz innovator Jelly Roll Morton and co-starred with Hines. Though the older dancer might have looked like a mentor to the younger, Hines confessed to NPR’s Lewis that he had to stretch just to keep up with Glover. “I can remember a couple of times he came in, he said, ’Oh man, I’m just exhausted,’” Hines recalled. “And I thought to myself, ’I got him today.’ And I go up on both my toes and I come down and everybody’s roaring, ’Oh boy, Gregory nailed Savion today.’ And his eyes opened up wide. Now he goes up on one toe—on one toe—stays up there for about a half hour, and everybody roared again because he comes back and nails me.” Hines told People, meanwhile, “When I get together with some of the older tap dancers, we talk about two things: women and Savion.” Hines pointed out that his young colleague “was doing things as a dancer at 10 that I couldn’t do until I was 25. He has steps, speed, clarity and an invention that no one else ever had. He’s redefined the art form.”
George Wolfe, who directed “Jelly’s Last Jam,” rhapsodized about Glover to the News Hour ’s Hunter-Gault: “Savion was like this living repository of rhythm.” Lewis explained that Glover’s prodigious technique bore little relation to the genteel tradition of tap on display in old movies. “He lands hard,” she insisted. “His body lurches and lunges. He shoots across the stage and whips into off-kilter balances, propelled by explosive bursts of sounds from his taps.” Glover himself put it succinctly: “I come loud.” Only his arrest for driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana briefly slowed his momentum, but he ultimately avoided serving any time in jail, opting instead for 50 hours of community service.
What he next came to, however, was television’s Sesame Street. While his Broadway fans were numerous, Glover would soon be the idol of a much larger and much younger set. “To die-hard fans of the series,” wrote Michelle Healy in USA Today, “Savion is an instructor at Celina’s Dance Studio, buddy to monsters and a 7-foot-tall yellow bird, and caring neighborhood resident.” Glover himself told the magazine, “I like to do positive things, to be thought of as a positive model, someone kids can relate to, that grown-ups can relate to.” Though he off-handedly referred to his duties on the program as “read[ing] to the kids, or whatever” in his interview with the Oakland Post, Glover’s TV role has clearly helped endow the venerable tap form with contemporary appeal. “Is this how Savion does it?” asked the children observed by Healy at a tap class. “Am I doing it like Savion?”
Glover once again collaborated with director Wolfe on a Broadway production, only this time they hatched the concept themselves. Glover’s dancing, Wolfe told Hunter-Gault, “inspired some sort of little abstract intellectual concept of exploring the relationship between history and rhythm,” and the result was a fantasia of the African American experience. “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk” told in tap, poetry, and music of such historical African American traumas as slavery and lynchings while including modern indignities like trying to hail a cab in New York. Glover provided the choreography and took center stage. This time, rather than igniting memories of tap’s past greats, he provided a focused vision of its future. The production exploded the tuxedoed cliché of tap and presented it as a virtually unlimited expressive medium.
“Hoofing and rhythm tap is like music,” Glover insisted to NPR, adding, “If you can do an eight bar phrase with your feet, and another person, not a dancer, can understand what you just did, you hit. You know what I’m saying? You expressed yourself.” Bringing “Noise/ Funk”—as the show came to be called—to Broadway fulfilled the dancer’s long-standing desire to present tap as something other than “arms and legs and all this big old smile. No. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s rhythm. It’s us. It’s ours.” He went on to describe his vision of “big concerts,” with “stadiums full of people—old, young, everybody— just wanting to see and hear tap. I’m saying the funk style …. I want to take it there. I want to take it everywhere.”
Of course, “funk” was a relatively new concept not only for Broadway, but for the world of tap. Yet for Glover, the term captured the rhythmic intensity at the roots of the form. “It’s going back to our basics,” he ventured in USA Today, “not the watered down basics that are taught in tap-dance class, but the essence of the basics.” His version of tap “can be done to hip-hop music or any kind of music. When I was doing jazz or swing style, I wanted to do it to my music, what I hear every day, which is hip-hop. So I developed this funk-like style, doing more rhythmic patterns than steps.” In addition to a singer and narrator, Glover and his fellow dancers were accompanied by two percussionists he discovered on the streets, who play buckets, pans, and other household items in the show—just like little Savion Glover did as a child.
Glover’s performance in “Noise/Funk” met with nearly universal accolades. “We always knew he was good,” raved Linda Winer of Glover in Newsday. “And yet, suddenly, yesterday’s cute prodigy seems to have burst, fully formed, onto the scene as one of the most exciting new artists we have seen in a very long time. He is absolutely the real thing,” she continued, “the genuine article, a phenomenon with whatever the world calls genius crawling all over him.” Winer went on to assert that Glover “is not only an amazing dancer, but that even rarer thing, an original choreographer.” A Los Angeles Times article exclaimed that “Glover has preserved the American origins of tap and simultaneously stomped away all vestiges of Uncle Tom-ism that have hung on from the happy-chappy days of [film and stage star] Bill ’Bojangles’ Robinson. In Glover’s steps, tap is a virtuoso form of self-expression, of rage and individual character—a joyful, raucous sound.” Another article in the same newspaper proclaimed that Glover’s “virtuosity is all the proof anyone needs of the reach and durability and incredible fragility of tap, an art that must be passed personally from artist to artist through time. That Glover is the current messenger and new custodian of the form is loud and clear in ’Noise/Funk.’”
Glover told People that he approached each performance like a pilot. “My show mode is that the dressing room is like going into the cockpit. Going down the stairs is like going on the runway, and once we begin performing, it’s flight time. I’m just floatin’ on that stage.” By the time “Noise/Funk” had filtered into the national consciousness, Glover was floating everywhere. He paid tribute to movie musical great Gene Kelly at the 1996 Academy Awards, retooling Kelly’s beloved “Singin’ in the Rain” number. “I did a couple of steps that were recognizable to the public, then I just added my own funk,” he noted in Newsweek. He also became the youngest ever recipient of the Dance Magazine Award, and was honored with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For his work in “Noise/Funk,” he won a Best Choreographer trophy at the Tony Awards.
Glover’s ambition more than matched his skills, as evidenced by his remarks in interviews. “Once I get my style out, and once I see that people all over the world are hip to tap and know it’s alive and well, then I’ll go on to something else,” he predicted to Newsweek ’s Laura Shapiro. When USA Today asked him to elaborate on future plans, he reflected, “I’d like to make dance movies, but I’d like to do some action flicks, something I can’t do in real life, like jumping off a building or something.” What Glover could not do in real life was far from certain; in any event, he seemed likely to expand the vocabulary of human movement with his every step.
Essence, August 1996, p. 52.
Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1995, p. F1; January 7, 1996, p. F7.
New York Amsterdam News, December 9, 1995.
Newsday, November 16, 1995, p. B11; April 26, 1996, P. B3; July 13, 1996, p. A8; August 8, 1996, p. B9.
Newsweek, April 22, 1996.
Oakland Post, July 26, 1995.
People, June 24, 1996.
USA Today, November 1, 1994, p. 5; May 31, 1996, p. 1D.
Additional information was provided by transcripts of reports by National Public Radio (November 17, 1995) and The News Hour (May 30, 1996).
Glover, Savion 1973–
GLOVER, Savion 1973–
Born November 19, 1973, in Newark, NJ; son of Yvette Glover (a performer and manager).
Addresses: Agent— William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Actor, dancer, and choreographer. Created his own dance company, Not Your Ordinary Tappers, 1997; has taught dance at Broadway Dance Center. Appeared in television commercials, including those for Chevy vehicles, 1993, Twix candy bars, 2000, and Cingular phone service, 2001–02; choreographed a television commercial for Nike athletic shoes.
Awards, Honors: Antoinette Perry Award nomination, 1989, for Black and Blue; Martin Luther King, Jr., Outstanding Youth Award, 1991; Drama Desk Award nomination, best actor, c. 1993, for Jelly's Last Jam; Young Artist Award nomination, outstanding youth host in a television variety show, 1994, for Sesame Street; Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, two Obie awards, Village Voice, two Fred Astaire awards, Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best performer, and Antoinette Perry Award, best choreography, 1996, all for Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk; Dance Magazine Choreographer of the Year Award, 1996; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1996.
(Broadway debut) Title character, The Tap Dance Kid, 1984.
Black and Blue, Minskoff Theatre, New York City, 1989–1991.
Young Jelly, Jelly's Last Jam, Virginia Theatre, New York City, 1992–1993.
Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, Ambassador Theatre, New York City, 1996–1997.
Savion Glover: Downtown, Variety Arts Theatre, New York City, 1998.
Keep Bangin', Players Theatre, New York City, 1999.
Foot Notes, Wilshire Theatre, Los Angeles, 2001.
Savion Glover with TiDii the Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY, 2002.
Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, U.S. cities, beginning 2002, later international cities.
Also toured U.S. cities in Jelly's Last Jam.
Choreographer, Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, Ambassador Theatre, New York City, 1996–1997.
Television Appearances; Series:
Savion, Sesame Street (also known as Les amis de Sesame, Canadian Sesame Street, The New Sesame Street, Open Sesame, and Sesame Park ), PBS, 1990–1995.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Bracey Mitchell, The Wall, Showtime, 1998.
Newcomer, Bojangles, Showtime, 2001.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Tap Dance in America (also known as Gregory Hines' Tap Dance in America ), PBS, 1989.
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1991.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, NBC, 1992.
Jammin': Jelly Roll Morton on Broadway (documentary), PBS, 1992.
Savion, Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (also known as Sesame Street Stays Up Late! A Monster New Year's Eve Party ), PBS, 1993.
Sesame Street's All–Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!, ABC, 1994.
In a New Light 's94, ABC, 1994.
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1995.
It Just Takes One, USA, 1997.
53rd Presidential Inaugural Gala, CBS, 1997.
Stomp, Slide and Swing with Savion Glover, PBS, 1998.
Host, Savion Glover's Nu York, ABC, 1998.
Quincy Jones—The First 50 Years, ABC, 1998.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center Opening Night Gala, PBS, 1998.
Host, In Performance at the White House, 1998.
Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra in Concert, Disney Channel, 1999.
Voice of toy dancer, The Steadfast Tin Soldier: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child " Series (animated), HBO, 2000.
Brother Time, Barbra Streisand—Timeless, Fox, 2001.
(Closing ceremony) 2002 Olympic Winter Games, NBC, 2002.
AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Tom Hanks, USA, 2002.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 61st Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1989.
16th Annual Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, syndicated, 1989.
Presenter, Broadway 's97: Launching the Tonys, PBS, 1997.
The 51st Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1997.
39th Grammy Awards, CBS, 1997.
The 13th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, syndicated, 1998.
12th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 1998.
30th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1999.
The 32nd NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Shangri–La Plaza, CBS, 1990.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Super Dave, 1987.
Sin City Spectacular (also known as Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular ), FX, 1998.
"Taps for Royal," The Jamie Foxx Show, The WB, 1999.
(Uncredited) Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1999.
America!, Odyssey, 2000.
Bartholomew, Cedric the Entertainer Presents, Fox, 2003.
Television Work; Movies:
Choreographer, The Rat Pack, HBO, 1998.
Television Work; Specials:
Executive producer and choreographer, Savion Glover's Nu York, ABC, 1998.
Choreographer, Barbara Streisand—Timeless, Fox, 2001.
Audition artist, Driving Me Crazy, First Run, 1988.
Louis, Tap, TriStar, 1989.
Manray/Mantan, Bamboozled, New Line, 2000.
The Making of "Bamboozled, " 2001.
Choreographer, Bamboozled, New Line, 2000.
Brother Time, Timeless: Live in Concert, 2001.
Black and Blue (original cast recording), DRG, 1989.
Jelly's Last Jam (original cast recording), Mercury, 1992.
Hot Jaz for Cool Yule, Pacific Vista Productions, 1995.
Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk (original cast recording), RCA Victor, 1996.
Television Music; Specials:
Savion Glover's Nu York, ABC, 1998.
(With Bruce Weber) Savion! My Life in Tap, HarperCollins, 2000.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 14, Gale, 1997.
Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale, 1997.
Dance Magazine, November, 1994; April, 1996.
TV Guide, May 23, 1998, p. 6.