Glover hoofs it into Page

Savion Glover is like a lot of other jazzmen: He has an ambivalent relationship about the black entertainment tradition, he likes to mention late greats like Miles Davis and he has some of the blunt swagger-some might even say arrogance-of those forebears.

But Glover's instrument isn't a saxophone, trumpet, bass or piano.

It's his tap-shoed feet.

"I do see myself like a jazz musician. My approach to this style of dance, which is called hoofing-it's just the same as a jazz musician would approach a song or an improvisational experience," he said.

Glover, who is often labeled the best living tap dancer, will perform his show Bare Soundz Sunday in Page Auditorium.

The show will also feature musicians and two other dancers in an experience Glover said will be "like going to see John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis, but they have on tap shoes."

Glover's full resume is too long to even partially capture, stretching from stints on Sesame Street and Monday Night Football to a star turn on Broadway at age 10 and a Tony Award in 1996.

But despite his reach into the upper echelons of American popular culture, he revels in the more obscure hoofing tradition, talking fondly of Jimmy Slide and other dancers who are hardly household names.

"I look in my audience and I see 80-year-old people, and I think those people are there because they, at one point, used to tap dance or loved Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly or Sammy Davis Jr.," Glover said. "That's maybe the older person's view. For the younger people, they've probably heard of it. They've seen probably the latest performances like Mumbles."

But don't get him started on the roots of tap in minstrelsy. Duke Performances is presenting him as part of the Shuffle and Pick series, which "explores the African origins of banjo and tap, digging for roots that reach beyond minstrelsy and cakewalks into the very core of what makes art American and black."

The depiction of his work as part of that tradition was unsettling for Glover.

"That's too bad, because to me-that's not a good name for the event. That's actually embarrassing," he said. "That's not what we do. Vaudeville, that area in life is literally just a dark area in a lot of people's lives. I don't know what to make of that."

He said he would prefer to see more forward-thinking approaches to dance and other art forms.

Glover said his performance will seek, above all, to entertain, but added that pure entertainment and progressive art are not mutually exclusive.

"There are so many new ideas coming up, but the people are still connecting these phrases from the past with new ideas," he said. "It's like you have 'neo-soul,' what in the world is this? We don't need to attach the old labels with these new ideas to allow us to progress. It's the progress that's more important."

Savion Glover will perform Bare Soundz Sunday in Page Auditorium at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for Duke students, $22-38 for others.


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