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Influences: Dancer Savion Glover

March 21, 2012 |  9:00 am

Savion Glover

For Savion Glover, tap dancing is about rhythm, about taking the beat of the drum and bass -– originally, African instruments -– into the body. He’s had plenty of time to think about his take on the tradition: Now 38, Glover was already appearing on Broadway as a child, making his debut with “The Tap Dance Kid” and following it with “Black and Blue,” “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk,” which he helped create and which landed his choreography a Tony Award.

Much of his work as dancer, choreographer and teacher –- he runs the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap in Newark, N.J. -– has involved taking some of the showbiz and Hollywood out of tap and and reconnecting it with black history going back to the earliest days of slavery, when slaves were forbidden to play drums.

Glover’s California tour, which brings him to the Valley Performing Arts Center on Saturday, is called “Bare Soundz” and will involve two other dancers as well as elements of flamenco. He says his goal for this show is “to give people a chance to hear the music in dance.”

Here Glover talks about his influences, including his teacher, the late Gregory Hines, who once said that Glover might be the finest tap dancer who’d ever lived, and the dancer Jimmy Slyde, who became one of the most visible exemplars of the jazz side tradition in the '80s through performances in “The Cotton Club” and “Round Midnight.” But, says Glover: “It goes beyond what their profession is: It’s people who’ve brought awareness to the world.”

Gregory Hines: It seemed like he was always part of my life, but our relationship began when I was about 13. He took me in as a son, a brother, a friend. It went beyond dance. He showed me survival tactics. His influence as a dancer was key -– he allowed me to hear more of the music. Gregory’s style appeared more immediately musical.

Jimmy Slyde: Once I came to realize his contribution to expression, I wanted to carry on his legacy -– for a lot of dancers from his time. His holistic approach to the art form -- the ability to communicate through dance -– was an amazing experience for me.

The Dalai Lama: For encouraging me to want to bring peace to the world. Over the last eight years I’ve been very influenced by him; he’s contributed energies to the world that make me want to continue.

Muhammad Ali: As a humanitarian, the kind of person he is, his whole state of being. His decision not to go to war, to join a new faith. We need these figures who don’t exactly go against the grain, but create a new grain.

John Coltrane: Trane was influential -– his changing, his metamorphosis. He went from the worst [heroin addiction] to being a saint, to his enlightenment. That’s something that a lot of public figures and entertainers go through, but lot of them don’t get to the other side. When I first heard him, I didn’t like him at all; I wasn’t ready for what he had to offer. Now I’m a disciple.

-- Scott Timberg

Savion Glover, "Bare Soundz," 8 p.m. Saturday, Valley Performing Arts Center, Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, (818) 677-3000,

Photo: Savion Glover. Credit: Jim Cooper/For the Los Angeles Times