March 6, 2014

Dance great Savion Glover honors tap dance history at Gallo Center

Tony-winning dancer, choreographer and actor Savion Glover brings his “STePz” show to the Gallo Center for the Arts March 15. The acclaimed tap dancer speaks with The Bee about honoring the art of stair dancing.

Even one of the world’s greatest dancers sometimes needs to take things one step at a time.

Or, more accurately, “STePz” at a time. Tony Award-winning dancer, choreographer and actor Savion Glover brings each one of those out in his new show, “STePz.” The production, which he debuted last year in the Joyce Theater in New York, is a tribute to stair dancing. The tap concert features Glover, fellow dancer Marshall Davis Jr. and three female dancers showcasing what has become a lost art form.

“We’re highlighting the steps, reintroducing the stair dances,” Glover said in an interview from his New Jersey dance school. “Through that reintroduction, we pay tribute to those great dance acts who have included the stairs in their routines. Aside from that, it’s just an evening of high-energy tap dance.”

Glover brings his “STePz” show to the Gallo Center for the Arts on March 15. When the show premiered last June, The New York Times called it “playful” and an “expression of love” that “everyone can enjoy.”

Glover told The Bee that the idea of stair dancing was one he has flirted with for a while, and a way to pay homage to tap’s rich history.

“This is a reminder of the stair dances and stair acts of the 1940s and 1950s, all those Hollywood movies. The Nicholas brothers and that great, fabulous stair dance they did. Also, Bojangles was famous for doing stair dance. The Berry brothers, Miller brothers and all those greats,” he said.

The show also pays tribute to tap greats like Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. The performance includes choreography set to a range of music, from jazz legends John Coltrane and Miles Davis to modern musicians Prince and Stevie Wonder, and even some classical and cinematic selections thrown in for good measure.

As a tap prodigy, Glover learned from some of the best in the genre, including Hines. Now 40, he made his Broadway debut at age 10 in “The Tap Dance Kid.” He returned to the Broadway stage at 15 with “Black and Blue” in 1989 and earned his first Tony nomination. In 1996, he went on to win for best choreography for “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk.”

On screen, Glover was a regular on “Sesame Street” in the early 1990s and starred in Spike Lee’s 2000 feature “Bamboozled,” among other credits.

Besides performing, Glover founded and teaches at the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap. The Newark, N.J., school opened in 2009 and teaches dance and its history. Glover said being able to work with the next generation of dancers is a gift.

“It is just a joy. I am happy to be able to share the information that was given to me,” he said, “and also the new things I just happened to come across as I continue to teach and develop and mature as a tap dancer. Having this place and having students there to share with them all of these joys about dance, it has been a wonderful experience. I am honored to be able to share and continue the legacy of these great men and women.”

Glover said that while reality shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars” have proliferated of late, tap largely has been left out of the popular wave. And that might not be a bad thing.

“Maybe it’s a good thing it’s not included in all these reality shows and whatnot,” Glover said. “It may develop a sense of miseducation as far as the dance. My approach to dance is I take it very seriously. It’s one of the great established art forms. The men and women responsible for my journey deserve to be highlighted in a way that is more educational than not. As long as I am able to do it, God willing, I will do that.”

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