Savion Brings Back 'Da Noise

By Goldberg, Jane | Dance Magazine, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Savion Brings Back 'Da Noise


Goldberg, Jane, Dance Magazine


It took several years to catch up with Savion Glover and talk tap with him. I tired to set a time on National Tap Dance Day 2000, at Town Hall, when he got his Flo-Bert Award for Life Achievement. That was when hundreds of teenagers deluged him for autographs. I tried again when he invited me to watch a rehearsal of his dancing with some of the old Harlem Globetrotters, but the rehearsal ended abruptly and it wasn't the time talk. Then one evening, he was outside on the street with his posse, hanging after one of Buster Brown's tap jams, and I suggested that the next morning maybe we could talk tap. "Morning?" he asked incredulously. * I'd been watching Glover since he was 12 years old, a long-legged prodigy tap dancing his way to stardom in the Broadway shows The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue, and Jelly's Last Jam. I followed his Sesame Street stint through my friends' children. Then there were all the hoofer memorials for the tap greats who died throughout the 1980s and '90s. I'd attended his birthday party at the 23rd Street Y, where he played basketball all night as the theme of the get-together.

I had a huge file on Glover in my archives. I wasn't a groupie; tap was family--at least it has been since I got into it in 1973. I had had many conversations about him with people in the tap world when Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, his mercurial hit musical that rocked Broadway, first played at the Public Theater, its Off-Broadway nesting site.

Gregory Hines told me that working out with Glover was what kept him in shape. "Savion will keep the weight off," he said. Would an interview with Glover inspire weight loss?

When I heard he'd taken off for Atlanta on his international tour of Noise/Funk, scheduled to last until June 8, 2003, I knew to lay low and let the publicist and manager discuss the terms of our interview.

Then, one late afternoon, the call came. I had received many emails and calls from his manager and tour publicists about "the call" that week, so I was ready. "I'd like to speak to Jane Goldberg," he said.

"I'm here," I screamed in delight.

"I can't talk now," he said.

Clunk.

"Give me a couple minutes," he continued. "My cell phone's running out of juice." I had learned not to hold my breath about this guy. But about ten minutes later, he came in loud and clear.

"So what's different about doing Noise/Funk now?" I began.

"Nothing."

"Isn't it a lot harder on your body now that you're 29, not 22 anymore?" I'd read an entire New York Times article about the chronic pain plaguing the Noise/Funk dancers when they were on Broadway. "You're with younger people, too." His cast for the tour ranges in age from 13 to 29 and includes his teen protege, Cartier Williams, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Marshall Louis Davis Jr., and Maurice Chestnut.

Then he remembered a few things. "On the first tour of the show, people were expecting to see me and didn't. I want to get the information out there again--you know, chunks, little pieces of history that the kids aren't getting, but that the adults have. I also sharpened up the choreography. Plus, Dormeshia is in it now. She's portrayed as a lady, like she should be, not just one of the regular dancers. We grew up together in Black and Blue. I call her `Mutha.' She's clean; she's our generation. The next new generation of women tap dancers will see her. She's protecting the art."

Dormeshia is married to Omar Edwards, a cousin of Glover's and an excellent tapper himself. He performed in Noise/Funk when it was on Broadway. Edwards had told me that Glover was a genius, that his famous relative was gifted and didn't have to practice the way most dancers do.

"I had to practice," Glover laughed. "Of course I had to practice. I didn't just roll out of bed and tap. I often go over material in my head, what I think I'm capable of doing. I'm always practicing in my head. …

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