Tap Icon Savion Glover Is Bringing His Unique Style to Convention Classes
Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.
Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.
We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.
How did Savion come on board at JUMP?
Tap is my forte, and Gil Stroming, the convention's owner, is a tapper, too. Both of us just idolized Savion growing up, because he completely revolutionized tap dancing. The style we do today, you can trace a lot of it back to Savion's Broadway show from the '90s, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. I used to drive anywhere to take his class. For ages, Gil and I had talked about how amazing it'd be to have him on the faculty. We pursued him for a few years, and finally the scheduling worked out.
What classes is he teaching?
He's doing a three-hour "Savion experience" on Friday nights, made up of three classes: one for the teachers, one for the younger dancers, and then an advanced class for the 15-and-up group. He doesn't approach teaching, especially at convention, like anyone else I've seen. Which in a way I expected, because, you know, he's Savion! But also, he's not really immersed in today's convention culture. So it's refreshing to watch him work without any predetermined ideas of what that class should look like.
How are his classes different from your average convention class?
Most convention tap classes are very content- and step-driven, with the students learning a combination to a specific piece of music. The end goal is to train the dancers in tap vocabulary. Savion's approach is, Oh, you guys know the steps already. He doesn't want to show you a combo the way he'd do it; he wants you to do what you do. It's a more intellectual experience, one that encourages you to think on your own, instead of him telling you what he wants. There's a lot of dance history involved, too. In one class, he was telling the kids, "Repeat after me: In Slyde We Trust," referring to Jimmy Slyde.
How have the students been responding to him?
It's funny, because I've looked up to Savion for 25 years, so I feel like one of the parents on the sideline—I don't want my kids to disappoint him! But they've been great. He has such an aura about him, and the dancers have really responded to that. He wants everyone to fully understand what he's saying, so he won't let anyone off the hook, and all the students have risen to the challenge. I think they understand that when he's singling out someone who's struggling, he's actually using them as a tool to help teach the lesson.
How does Savion's work fit into your larger mission for the convention?
I mean, if you can get Savion, you get Savion! He has so much to offer. We want the best teachers in the world in each genre, and Savion is exactly that.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
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But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
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