When I think of tap dancing, I think of Gene Kelly (see below) “just singin’ and dancin’ in the rain” as he explains to a police officer what he is doing in that film’s famous dance number. Kelly had a 103 degree fever when that number was filmed. It did not seem to bother him.
And while I was too young to see Fred Astaire (see above) movies when they originally were in theaters, I saw the films when they came to television. I remember him dancing on the ceiling of a room. (Of course, he was not really doing that. The complete set on which the dancing took place ROTATED and Mr. Astaire made sure he was always dancing on a flat surface.) And I remember when he threw sand on his hotel room floor to soften the sound of his steps so he would not annoy a guest (ie, Ginger Rogers) in the room below his.
In the 1950s, variety shows on evening television (all 3 channels) often featured tap dancers (eg, Sammy Davis, Jr, the Hines brothers, Gergory and Maurice, with their Father, the Nicholas Brothers, Honi Coles, etc.). These experiences and a quote pointed me in the direction of a specific dancer. “Gene Kelly touched and inspired many people, notably Gregory Hines. (see above) Gene loved Gregory and spoke with warmth about him as a dancer and human being and about the terrific clarity and precision of his steps. The feeling was clearly mutual as evidenced in the tribute to Gene at the 1982 Kennedy Center Honors when Hines performed “I Got Rhythm” and “Fascinating Rhythm” in an homage to his friend and mentor.” Hines was a tap dancer, teacher, and actor on Broadway (receiving numerous Tony nominations in musicals) and in movies. His film credits included: The Cotton Club, Tap (yes, that was the film’s title), Running Scared (with an equally young and fit Billy Crystal), Wolfen (where he held his own with Finney), and White Nights (a dance film masquerading as a drama with Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov (see below) matching each other step-for-step). He had his own television show in 1997-9. An exceptional talent, he taught and worked with Savion Glover.
It could be said if you follow the evolution of “tap”, eventually you will arrive at Mr. Glover. He began teaching dancers when he was 14. “Glover had a heavy foot for tap. He (can) dance hard and loud in every step.” Kelly said “In our tap dancing, Fred (Astaire) represented the aristocracy and I represented the proletariat,” When told this and asked what style he represented, Glover said: “I represent the loud.”
His work with Hines occurred when he was very young. He was seen as a guest in many musical events (which can be found on You Tube). He was in Broadway’s “Jelly’s Last Jam” (choreographed by Gregory Hines and Ted Levy) in 1992. In 1996, he danced in, and was choreographer for, “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk”. He was nominated for Tonys in both roles, and won for Best Choreographer. In 2016, he was again nominated for a Tony as Choreographer of “Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed”. Reviewing the “Noise”, the New York Times said: “Mr. Glover meticulously and respectfully demonstrates many techniques, then blends them all into an exultant stylistic brew that belongs to no one but him. As dance, as musical, as theater, as art, as history and entertainment, there’s nothing Noise/Funk cannot and should not do.” And, finally, as Hines has stated: “Savion Glover is possibly the best tap dancer who ever lived.” Or, as I would put it: Savion Glover is more unique, creative, faster, and –occasionally—louder than anyone, period. (See below: Hines and Glover –young; Glover -now)
The bottom line is: I can talk and quote other people until you are tired of hearing how great Savion Glover is, but to truly appreciate his skill (and Gregory Hines’ as well) you must see and hear it. So, I will stop talking and suggest as strongly as I can that you go to You Tube, find these works, and enjoy yourself.
- Gregory Hines’ solo tap scene from White Nights (4 minutes).
2. Savion Glover at the White House (ignore Bill Clinton’s intro and watch Savion; if you want to skip Savion’s speech –while he catches his breath—and watch him and 4 other dancers tap in unison, tell me how they did it.)
3. Savion Glover’s Signature Demo. He finishes a glass of orange juice while standing on a roof top, then taps across the roof, down a flight of stairs, and across a room to refill his glass.
4. Dancing with Gregory Hines –joy2learn foundation. Now, DON’T PANIC = this is a 60 segment history of tap with each segment being 15 seconds to a minute+. Put time aside and treat yourself. You will admire Mr. Hines as a teacher, speaker, and dancer who can illustrate every tap step EVER.