Savion Glover



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