Don’t let your babies grow up to be … tap dancers?
Lots of children put on their cowboy boots and run around imagining life as a calf-roping, bronc-riding cowboy or girl. But when Savion Glover put on his little brown and beige Thom McAn cowboy boots in Newark, N.J., he tap-danced in them. As a student at the Broadway Dance center in Manhattan, Glover couldn’t afford tap shoes so he wore his cowboy boots instead. They worked so well he was awarded a private audition with a Broadway choreographer. That audition led to Glover’s 1984 debut in the “The Tap Dance Kid,” and his first pair of real tap shoes. These days, Glover wears size 12 Capezio tap shoes in his latest show, “Improvography,” which will appear at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek at 7:30 p.m., Sunday. The show’s title, coined by Glover’s mentor Gregory Hines, describes Hines’ style of stepping and spontaneous invention – a skill Glover is also known for. Hines’ death encouraged Glover to revitalize his semi-dormant career and the show was named as a tribute to him.
“When it comes to tap dancing, there is Savion Glover, and then there are the rest of us,” said Hines. “Savion Glover has changed the way we perceive tap dancing.”Improvography, a combination of improvisation and choreography, features Glover, his eight-member tap dance company, Ti Dii (pronounced “tye dye”) and an ace jazz ensemble in a dynamic mix of music, dance and sound. In Act No. I, Glover tirelessly performs a 50-minute solo set to jazz, hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, rock and funk music. The second half showcases Ti Dii, which follows Glover without compromising the group’s individual flair. Glover even sings in Improvography, offering the audience a glimpse of another one of his notable talents.Glover first displayed his affinity for rhythms at a young age when he would beat them out on anything he could in the New Jersey home he shared with his mother, two brothers, grandmother, aunt and nephew. He took his first drumming lesson at age four, but his teacher claimed he was too talented for the class. He was enrolled at the Newark Community School of the Arts and was the youngest person in the school’s history to receive a full scholarship at age five.
His love of the beat soon moved to Glover’s feet, and at age seven, he started tapping. He scored the lead in Broadway’s “The Tap Dance Kid” at age 12 in 1984 and appeared on Broadway again in the musical revue “Black and Blue” in 1989. This performance earned him his first Tony nomination – making him one of the youngest artists ever to receive the honor. Glover went on to appear in Jelly’s Last Jam, co-starring Hines, before his career moved to the big screen in the motion picture “Tap,” again co-starring Gregory Hines along with Sammy Davis Jr. Glover honed his skills while working with these legends and positioned himself to be the heir apparent of the tap dance art form. He started teaching tap, using what he’d learned from the old masters, while also developing his own tap style, which he christened “free-form hard core.”In 1996, Glover choreographed and starred in the smash hit “Bring in ‘da Funk, Bring in ‘da Noise.” The innovative work portrayed the major eras in African-American history through breathtaking tap numbers. His performance earned him a Tony Award for Best Choreography and co-creator George C. Wolfe received a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical.
Some of Glover’s other appearances include a regular role on “Sesame Street” from 1990-1995, a starring role in Spike Lee’s 2000 movie “Bamboozled,” and the Winter Olympics closing ceremony. He also choreographed Nike’s award-winning TV spots, “Free Style,” and choreographed the movie “The Rat Pack.” Glover’s career is varied and extensive, marked with numerous awards along the way. Critics say there are likely more to come from Improvography. To buy tickets, call 845-TIXS (8497) or go to vilarcenter.org.Vail, Colorado