English Honors 9
December 20, 2002
Savion Glover is arguably one of the best tap dancers to grace the
world of entertainment in decades. His unique style has stunned audiences
for the past eighteen years and most likely will continue to do so for many
years to come. It is incredibly humbling to think over the list of
accomplishments that Savion has mastered in his mere thirty years. Although
he has been taking the world of tap by storm for the past decade, he
wouldn’t be known today if it weren’t for taps originators.
Although the art of tap dance is native to America, its roots are
located in the percussive dance styles of African, English, Irish, and
Scottish cultures. The styles contributed from the English, Irish, and
Scottish were derived from their dancing as a form of entertainment.
However, when the Africans were sold into slavery and brought to America,
they were prohibited to communicate with each other and the use of drums
and clapping was forbidden. Eventually, they developed a form of
communication using syncopated tap rhythms, thus the birth of tap!
(Encyclopedia.) Eventually in 1829, slave dances were theatrically adapted
in the first blackface minstrel show. Tommy “Daddy” Rice danced this
historical performance. (ask.com) A few years later, William Henry Lane,
(also known as Master Juba Lane,) was the first African American to become
well known on minstrel stages. (google.com) In the late 1800’s minstrel
shows developed two techniques, a fast style of tapping using wooden shoes,
and a smoother, leather-soled style made famous by George Primrose. After
years of tap had been danced upon the minstrel stages, metal plates, or
taps, were added to the leather-soled shoes in the l920’s opening up a
whole new window of opportunity for artistic creativity. About a decade
later, in the 1930’s, black dancers were finally aloud to contribute to the
development of new styles of tap. (ask.com) With this revolution, Bill “Bo
jangles” Robinson evolved to become America’s most famous tap dancer in the
1930’s. His legend still lives on in the movies he made with the child
superstar, Shirley Temple. Proceeding Robinson’s quicker style, John
“Bubbles” Sublett popularized a slower, more syncopated style of tap
dancing (ask.com) deeming him the inventor of rhythm tap. (google.com)
Without these individuals to pave the way for today’s artists such as
Savion Glover, tap dancing may not exist let alone be where it is today.
Savion Glover was born on November 17, 1973 in Newark, New Jersey.
His mother created his name as a spin-off of the word “savior.” He lived
his childhood sharing a home with his mother, two brothers, grandmother,
his aunt and her nephew. Eventually, Savion showed interest in the drums
but his mother instead enrolled him in jazz and ballet classes where he
studied for four years. At the age of eight, he began tap dancing lessons.
In classes he wore little brown and beige Tom McCann cowboy boots due to
his mothers financial inability to afford proper tap shoes. As Savion grew,
he continued intensely with his lessons as well as attending Newark Arts
High School. This was the extent of Savion’s formal education. (tap.org)
At the age of twelve, Savion made he Broadway debut in the title role
in The Tap Dance Kid. (tap.org) As he proceeded to enter the world of tap,
he worked with such inspirations as Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde, and Gregory
Hines who became Savion’s mentor. Hines was quoted in 1988 speaking of
fourteen-year-old Savion saying, “Savion’s the man! He’s the one who is
going to take tap into the 90’s and 2000’s.” (newsweek 67) Who knew Gregory
Hines was not only a tap legend, but also a fortune teller!
Following his Broadway debut in 1985, Savion then made his film debut
at age thirteen in the movie, Tap! With Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr.
in 1989. (webfind.net) That same year, Savion was back on Broadway in Black
; Blue. Here Savion made history being the youngest to be nominated for a
Tony Award for his performance in Black ; Blue. Savion’s first nationally
accredited award came in 1991 when he received the Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. Outstanding Youth Award. Three years after Black & Blue in 1992, he was
seen in Jelly’s Last Jam. The kid just couldn’t stop! For the following
three years, Savion appeared to be hiding from the Broadway spotlight seen
then as a series regular on Sesame Street (1990-1995). In the mean time he
was furiously co-writing and choreographing his own show. Bring