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Savion Glover: Telling Stories With His Feet

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

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
—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

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

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.