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.