Savion Glover is to tap dance what Peyton Manning is to football, Eddie Van Halen is to guitar-playing, and Emeril Lagasse is to etouffee.
Unlike many well-branded cultural icons, Glover has never sought the limelight nor has he basked in any of it. He hasn’t used his renown in one area to conquer neighboring territory.
I just feel like my role is much more important than the role of being a celebrity, he says. It’s just the way I was raised. Celebrity has never meant that much to me. I know it can come and go.
I know that my position here – my place in dance – means much more than being famous, than being a celebrity. I have a duty, a job, to fulfill. I have a commitment to these men. As long as I can spread their message – spread the word through dance – then that’s what I will be focused on.
Savion Glover’s show SoLe Sanctuary comes to the Honeywell Center in Wabash tonight.
Glover, 39, was on Broadway by 10, earned his first Tony nomination at 15 and starred in his first Hollywood movie at 16.
The perils of the flashier forms of early success are well documented.
Glover is the product of a single-parent home, but his life was rich with father figures.
When Glover refers to these men, he is talking about the pioneers of tap dance like Jimmy Slyde, Harold Nicholas, Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines.
Glover grew up around them. They taught him to dance and they taught him much more.
Thanks to their efforts and those of his mother to keep him grounded, Glover says he never felt out of control.
I grew up an average kid – a regular kid – in Newark, N.J., he says. I wasn’t raised out in Hollywood or Beverly Hills or anywhere like that.
I didn’t have all of those extras that the young children of show business have, Glover says. Even though I was performing, I was dealing with regular issues at home like the lights being cut off in the middle of dinner. My everyday life never changed. The people around me didn’t change. Nothing changed.
Glover is a parent himself now to an 8-year-old son named Chaney and he is also the founder of the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap in Newark, where he guides aspiring dancers in seemingly atypical fashion.
Glover says he believes in a holistic approach to dance education, one that addresses spirituality and honors history.
Glover butted heads with some of his fellow dance educators a few years back when he criticized the tap world’s predilection for training students so that they can enter and win competitions.
It is Glover’s view that this trophy-craving mindset cheapens tap dance, but his ardor for arguing the point has cooled since then.
Tap dance is like basketball, he says. We all play differently. I just have certain opinions about the dance, about the preservation of the dance. I used to think that we – all tap dancers – should be thinking the same and have the same approach.
I came to realize that this is not going to happen, Glover says. Everyone approaches it differently. It just gives me more incentive to stay on my path, to stay strong and do what it is that I have been taught to do.
In my early years, I used to get very frustrated, he says. I did not understand why we were all not thinking the same things. As I matured and as I mature, I understand more and more every day, that there is room for different views.
Glover, who choreographed and modeled all the movements in the Happy Feet movies, says he wants dance neophytes who attend tonight’s show to try to see tap dance, not as a complement to music, but as music, in and of itself.