Savion Glover: Telling Stories With His Feet

The famed tap dancer’s “SoLe Sanctuary” show honors Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines, and Jimmy Slyde.

By: Sophie Gilbert

Photograph by Nina Glover.

Savion Glover’s résumé includes a Broadway debut at age ten, a Tony nomination at 15 (he won seven years later), four years on Sesame Street, and a PBS special at the White House in which President Clinton introduced him as “the greatest tap dancer of all time.” But in Glover’s current show, the artist, educator, and choreographer pays homage to the men he sees as pioneers. SoLe Sanctuary—January 20 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts—honors dancers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmy Slyde, and Gregory Hines. “It acknowledges my teachers and mentors,” says Glover, “people who’ve been heavily influential on not only my career but also my love for dance and expression.”

Born and raised in Newark, Glover, 39, started dancing at age seven, but his interest was really sparked when he discovered tap: “It wasn’t until I was able to connect with these men and learn from them that I began to understand dance to be something more.” At ten, he took over the title role in Broadway’s The Tap Dance Kid. Glover’s style emphasizes tap’s African-American roots, focusing on foot movement and rhythm. The New York Times called SoLe Sanctuary “barebones and pure, full of the kind of rhythmic innovation that trips down one path, splinters off in different directions, and then sweeps back home.”

Glover hopes the show inspires audiences to think of tap beyond entertainment: “When we speak about Gregory and Jimmy, they were about much more than just doing a combination—they told stories,” he says. “We’re storytellers, and we allow people to feel music through the dance.”

Savion Glover. January 20 at George Mason University. Tickets ($23 to $46) available online.

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.