In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Savion Glover, who made his Broadway debut 25 years ago, is coming to the Marcus Center Tuesday. (PHOTO: Marcus Center)

Savion Glover the musician comes to the Marcus Center

The Savion Glover who will appear at the Marcus Center Tuesday night is that fella with the tap shoes, but he's not exactly coming to Milwaukee as a traditional dancer. His show is titled "Bare Soundz," and its intention is to demonstrate that he is a musician.

Glover and two proteges perform without instrumental accompaniment. Their six feet provide the music.

Mounting low platform boxes, they create percussion, rhythm and melody in a melange of musical genres. Horn section? They tap it.

Bass? They tap it. Drums? They tap it.

"We are musicians of the dance," Glover said in a recent phone interview. "We enjoy the dance as song.

"The great dancers were influential on composers," he continued, mentioning Basie, Ellington, Coltrane and Miles Davis.

"Bare Soundz" represents Glover's singular role as the link between the old classic tappers and a 21st century esthetic. An art form that includes Gene Kelly, the Busby Berkeley girls and the Nicholas Brothers is being reinterpreted. Glover is moving it from a heavily visual medium to a predominantly aural one.

There is substantial irony here, because he sees himself as the keeper of a sacred flame, and during our phone conversation Glover left no doubt about the esteem and reverence he holds for the tappers who have gone before him.

"It's so important we recognize the men and women who were legendary greats," he said. "You have to find these people. They aren't on TV. I like to acknowledge them."

Boston-based Dianne "Lady Di" Walker falls into that category, and Glover studies tap with her. "I am a student forever," he explained. "I study the greats like Gregory Hines, Lon Chaney and Marshall Davis, Jr. for their contributions to the art form."

Glover has a pet peeve – performers who take a class, put it in their resumes and think it qualifies them for something. They don't get that claiming a tap dance credit requires ongoing honing and study.

"A dancer will take a class from Jimmy Slyde or someone like myself and then go around saying, 'I took a class.' That means nothing," the star said.

"You don't just take a one-hour class. This takes years and years and years of study."

The 37-year-old Glover tapped in cowboy boots as a kid, and he was dancing on Broadway before he was a teenager. The appropriately titled "The Tap Dance Kid" was the show.

At 18, Glover played Young Jelly in the Broadway musical "Jelly's Last Jam." Its star, Gregory Hines, became his mentor.

Back on Broadway in 1996, Glover won a Tony Award for best choreography for "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk," a musical he co-created. He also starred in it.

Passionate about passing on his knowledge and skills, the star spends much of his time operating the HooFeRz Club School for Tap in his hometown of Newark, N.J.

Asked if he practices tapping every day, Glover said he didn't. "I don't practice tap. I live it."


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