Students gathering at the Dancers’ Workshop studio in Jackson for the second of two classes by the world’s foremost tap dancer were warned that their instructor was intense, might go long and had a big-picture approach to teaching his craft.
Indeed, at Savion Glover’s hometown Newark, New Jersey, school where he teaches tap to almost anybody who wants to learn, he warns prospective students they’ll spend their first year with a notepad and pen, not in tap shoes. At the Savion Glover School of Dance, you shouldn’t join the HooFeRzClub if you’re looking for the bump-stock equivalent for your tap shoes, Glover says.
“If you want to learn the fancy steps, please find a different school to take lessons at,” he wrote. Serious students need to first understand the history, personalities, meaning and theory behind the art form.
Glover kept to his method at Dancers’ Workshop, stretching minds as he asked about 50 participants to make the sound of pink, among other colors. There was no instructional demonstration of a brush or strike, step-heel or single buffalo.
One evening he spent almost two hours teaching the difference between beat and rhythm. “Groove,” he explained to the class while bopping to a beat, “is when my body tells me to do this.”
Students were asked to keep a beat going by a tapping toe and counting out loud while overlaying a different rhythm by clapping. For many the task was dizzying, but eventually accomplishable.
Glover is not alone in his theories. “Tap dancers are musicians,” say the owners of Capezio, a leading manufacturer of dance shoes where hoofers can spend more than $300 on a pair of K360s or as little as $13 for Tele Tone heel taps. (Watch Glover dance in a pair of K360s at his school in this video.)
Glover doesn’t need Italian-quality footwear to impress, as he demonstrated in Jackson in his street boots. When he changed into his dancing shoes, students focused keenly. He urged them to always seek more. “When we stop exploring,” he said, “we’re done.”