Savion Glover was noted as "the greatest tap dancer to ever lace up a pair of tap shoes" by Gregory Hines. Photo credit: Lois Greenfield

Renowned tap dancer turns foreclosed buildings into dance academy

2 mins read

Returning Home

131 Brunswick Street houses two buildings that are very familiar to Glover. As a child, one of the structures was Newark Community School of the Arts, a place where he took music lessons.

Some years ago, Glover drove past the building as he trekked through his old stomping grounds. Although the place had long been disregarded, he recognized it from his youth and the memories of the trainings received there. Glover found out that the building had been vacant and about to be torn down after years in foreclosure, so he immediately purchased it along with the adjacent quarters.

Thousands of dollars in repairs and renovations, he opened up an oasis that literally sits in the trap. But for Glover, it is home.

Born and reared in Newark, he knows every back street and pothole like the wear and tear in his tap shoes. Although, on any given week he flies to Monaco or London, for exclusive performances, he prefers home — beloved Brick City (the popular local moniker for Newark).

At any time, you will walk into the building and bump into formidable performers from hoofers like Glover to hip-hop artists.

Glover, who describes his tap dancing technique as “funk” is also part of the cadre of Newarkers in the 1990s that left a mark in hip-hop such as Lauryn Hill, Rah Digga, and the city’s current mayor, Ras Baraka who plays the high school teacher on Hill’s history-making album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

The Continuum

Glover embraces and embeds himself in all forms of art, he is a musician, dancer, jazz historian, and actor. I also heard him chime out a few notes during a performance as he paid homage to his forebears, Gregory Hines, Bill “Bo” Jangles, Jimmy Slyde, and Duke Ellington.

Glover’s pedagogy is part street, part stage, part thump and pure heart that he grabs from mentors that one would kill over. As a kid, he was cast in the 1989 movie, Tap that starred Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. The film featured a phenomenal scene capturing three generations of hoofers dancing in a friendly competition highlighting their style — a scene never captured in film before or since.

Embraced by a group of African-American hoofers whose work spans decades, Glover literally carries their legacy, lessons and the history of a unique black art form in his soles.

Performing since he was a pre-pubescent kids, he still performs, but is focused on providing historical, social and cultural awareness of  tap dancing — a form of movement fused by the dances, sounds, bodily rhythms and cultural swappings of Africans enslaved in America who eventually became “black people”.

“Art saves lives” is Glover’s mantra because he believes that art connects with our humanity.

It forces us to do a lot of soul searching via our expression. For him, Newark is worthy of saving, and so thrice a week, you can find his cherry red Porsche perched on the sidewalk of Brunswick Street.

Kaia Niambi Shivers covers diaspora, news and features.

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