When Savion Glover steps into his “SoLe Sanctuary,” he isn’t just dancing. He is tapping his soul’s essence, paying homage, and channeling his predecessors, masters such as Buster Brown, Steve Condos, Chuck Green, Lon Chaney (the tap dancer, not the actor), Jimmy Slyde, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, Gregory Hines. In this interview Glover talks about his latest show, which he brings to Spokane on Saturday, the legacy he hopes to pass on, and tap dance as a form of meditation.
IJ: How was this show conceived?
SG: It’s basically been a work in progress that is based on my relationship and commitment to these great tap dancers that I have had the opportunity to be with and learn from and grow to love. This is basically a tribute to them by myself and Marshall Davis Jr. (no relation to Sammy).
IJ: Talk about the visual presentation. It’s pretty minimalistic, right? There are pictures of tap dance greats, there is a person on stage meditating during the entire performance, what else?
SG: There’s not really much. There are some pictures displayed, posters if you will, of some of the greats, like you mentioned, there is a person on stage who will be meditating. That is to give the people an opportunity to see that there is a form of meditation and prayer that goes into the dance. Many people have different ways to meditate. I’m choosing to show that one can also meditate to the sound of dance, and the sound of tap dance.
IJ: Tell me about the music, for at least a portion of the show there is this almost New Age music playing, maybe something you would hear in a yoga studio, but not something you would associate with tap dancing.
SG: It’s more of just a sound than music. We dance to a music track by John Coltrane, so there is music in the show. But it’s mostly ambience. It’s not meant to be New Age, or even music, but it’s just a sound bed.
IJ: Why do this show without an intermission?
SG: That’s just how we do it. It’s similar to a concert. We like to do the production without intermission so we can just … get it on, I guess. Sometimes we do it with the intermission if the place we’re performing at asks us to, but if we don’t have to do the intermission then we don’t do it.
IJ: Talk about Marshall’s role in the show and how you two complement each other’s styles.
SG: Marshall’s role is very important. Basically our approach to the show is like two musicians practicing their instrument so his role is vital. His approach is one that is unique and specific to who he is and mine would be the same thing for me. The similarity is that we both appreciate and love and honor these men and women of the dance we are representing. As far as individual style, his is one I’ve never heard or seen before and I love it.
IJ: Can you say a word about how something as simple as dancing can be so … moving? Of course there is nothing simple about the way you move, but the way body movement can tell a story and communicate an emotion or relate an experience, can you talk about the power of dancing?
SG: There’s power in all expression, whether that’s dance or literary art, whatever the expression, it is a powerful thing to be able to communicate emotion and experience through expression. We all have the ability to express ourselves in one way or another, but I also believe it’s another element when you can make a connection with one who is watching and listening and if they can walk away with a story or something along those lines, and understand a message. There is a message in certain tones and vibrations. There is a connection to the Earth. Whether you call it spiritual or an out-of-body experience, these tones and vibrations are connected in a way that some of us are able to relate.
IJ: I realize this show is about the pioneers who preceded you, but many would say your name is right up there alongside those greats. What would you say about your contribution and commitment to the art form. What is your legacy?
SG: My commitment is more about the history of the dance and the men and women responsible for it. It wouldn’t matter to me if people danced or not as long as they are aware and able to share with one another the important contribution made by some of these great entertainers, really some of the greatest entertainers. If their legacy and contribution were to be lost it would not be beneficial. I wouldn’t mind if no one tap danced but I am happy to be able to pass on the knowledge and information I have about these men and women.