Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interview by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
Savion Glover on the importance of arts education, listening to your elders and 'the best show ever in Denver'
Virtuosic tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover simply wasn't like other kids. He started dancing at 7 and was cast as Broadway's Tap Dance Kid at the tender age of 12. "But I was never braggadocios about it,” he says now, 31 years later. “I don't ever walk around saying, 'Oh I have a special gift.’ ” Glover sees his ability to dance as a gift that was given to him, much like a pair of socks on Christmas. But simply having a gift doesn’t make you special, he insists. Because every kid has his own pair of socks. It’s what you do with those socks that's your responsibility.
"We all have a talent, and no matter what it is or where we are, whether it's on Broadway or the inner city ... it's our duty to continue to express that talent,” Glover told the DCPA NewsCenter just before his headlining performance before 800 helped raised a record $1 million for DCPA Education programs at the annual Saturday Night Alive benefit on March 4 at the Stage Theatre.
“I believe that once we learn how to express ourselves, whether through dance, art, writing, painting, construction or whatever … we find our voice. And once we are heard through our artistic expression, we are better understood,” he said. “Someone might be able to draw a painting that might express who they really are better than one might be able to articulate with words.”
Glover is best known for works like Jelly's Last Jam and Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk, which won him a Tony Award for Best Choreography. He was nominated again last summer for his work on Shuffle Along . He has been featured on the TV dance shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars.
Arts education is a continuing passion for both Glover and the Denver Center. The DCPA’s extensive educational programs reached more than 105,000 students last year. Glover, 42, established the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap, and regularly visits schools across the country to spread his enthusiasm for dance and arts education. He was known to millions of Sesame Street fans for his appearances from 1990–95.
Glover, who was born in New Jersey, was taught by tap legend Gregory Hines, who once said, "Savion is possibly the best tap dancer who ever lived." Glover calls his style "young and funk." When asked to describe what funk is, he says in his biography: "Funk is anything that gets one's head on beat. It is riding with the rhythm. It is a pulse that keeps one rolling with the beat."
Here’s more of Glover’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore: (Story continues below photos.)
Photo gallery: Savion Glover's Busy Day in Denver:
The photo gallery above includes highlights from Savion Glover's performance and master class. To see more, just click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
John Moore: Your performance is going to help raise $1 million for education programs here at the DCPA. Why was it important for you to be here?
Savion Glover: Once the schools started to eliminate arts funding, I made it a part of my journey to advocate for the arts. In many states, they are quickly eliminating arts programs. That's unfortunate because, in my opinion, the arts fuel the entire education system. The more kids are able to express themselves, the more we adults, educators and teachers are able to see what the future will hold.
John Moore: How important then is it that there are places like the Denver Center to help fill the gap?
Savion Glover: I honor and applaud organizations like this one, as well as individual educators who have stepped up because we do have a void to fill. Establishments like the Denver Center realize there is a need for arts in education to continue. I look forward to coming to venues like this where they realize the importance of self-expression and the importance of allowing children to know that it's still OK to express yourself in an artistic way.
John Moore: This morning you taught a master class for wide range of dance students. Why was it important for you to fit that into your limited schedule here in Denver?
Savion Glover: I love teaching the kids because when I teach, I learn myself. I look at the kids as the teachers. Little do they know ….
John Moore: What was it like for you growing up in New Jersey?
Savion Glover: I grew up in a house where you could taste the love in the food. Then you go somewhere else and you go, "There is no love in this food."
John Moore: You aren’t like, well, many other kids. You were already on Broadway at age 12. So how do you relate to kids today who don't yet know what they want to be?
Savion Glover: To be on Broadway was not a part of my plan. I started dancing when I was 7 years old and one thing led to another. I was playing in a band, and then my mom signed up myself and my two older brothers for tap classes. It was just something to do. After a year or so of classes, I got an audition. Once I got cast, my life began to change. Then I began to travel, and I met many wonderful men and women like Jimmy Slyde, Lon Chaney, Gregory Hines, all of these great contributors who later would become my mentors and educators and great friends. I have dedicated my life to them and their contributions to the art, and to humanity.
John Moore: How important is it for young dancers to have mentors?
Savion Glover: It is very important to have what I would call a human resource. We live in an era of technology. You need someone to confide in who will give you honest criticism. I have turned to older people. My mentors were 70 and 80 years old, and I just dug them so much as people. If there is someone available to tell you a story about what happened in the 1950s, and you hear it right from that person’s mouth, and you can feel that energy and their emotion, that might better allow you to express that story yourself. I am happy with the progress of technology, but there is nothing like hearing a story from someone who was there.
John Moore: You told your students today, “If you can imagine it, you can express it.” How do you teach a kid to do that?
Savion Glover: I think there is a muscle that allows us to express what we see - we just have to be able to communicate what that is. My son is 12 years old, and he can draw these pictures through animation. I'm no artist in that way, but he just sees it in his mind, and he brings it to life. I believe we all have that ability. We can't all draw, but we all should be able to articulate what we can imagine in our own way, whether that is through dance, music, writing or other art forms.
More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter
John Moore: Congratulations on your latest Tony Award, for Shuffle Along. What was that experience like for you?
Savion Glover: My time in Shuffle Along was one of my greatest experiences. (Director) George C. Wolfe is a genius. I respect him as a man and as an artist. He is one of the smartest human beings I know. He knows everything, and I am the type of person where if there is an opportunity to learn, I am going to take full advantage of that. I also had a ball just being a choreographer, and bringing the stories of these men and women to life who you would never know about if not for our version of Shuffle Along.
John Moore: So what’s next for you?
Savion Glover: I continue to search and hone in on my craft. I have a mission. I am on a journey to continue what I do, and I am thankful for that.
John Moore: Your show here at the Denver Center has been sold out for weeks. So for those people who can't get in, what kind of a show will you be putting on tonight?
Savion Glover: For those of you who can't get in tonight, well, this is unfortunate. Because this is going to be the best show ever in Denver. You're just going to have to read about it, ask about it and wish that you were here. I can’t tell you how it’s going to start. I can't tell you how it's going to end. But when you hear about it, you are just going to say, "Oh, man."
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist.
Previous NewsCenter coverage of Saturday Night Alive:
Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
to headline DCPA's Saturday Night Alive
: Saturday Night Alive 2017
The Presenting Sponsor of the 2017 Saturday Night Alive
was BMW of Downtown Denver
. Platinum Sponsors were the Salah Foundation
and United Airlines
. Emerald Sponsors were the Colorado Oil and Gas Industry
, The Westin Hotel Denver
. Gold Sponsors were Always Best Care Senior Services
, Epicurean Catering
, Kathie and Keith Finger, u.s. bank
, Colorado State Bank and Trust
, The Tuchman Family Foundation
and Triptyk Studios
. The Surprise Box Sponsor was Kendra Scott. The 2017 Event Chairs were L. Roger and Meredith Hutson.