Q&A: Tap dancer Savion Glover gets ‘All FuNKD’ Up’ at National Theatre

Tap sensation Savion Glover performs during a dress rehearsal for "Classical Savion," Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2005, at the Joyce Theater in New York. Glover's show, which he directed and choreographed, opens Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Savion Glover at National Theatre

Jason Fraley

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WASHINGTON — The New York Times called him “the greatest tap dancer who has ever lived.”

This weekend, the inimitable Savion Glover brings his fancy footwork to Washington to kick off his national tour of “All FuNKD’ Up” at the National Theatre on Friday and Saturday nights.

“This is the first stop for this particular production of ‘All FuNKD’ Up,'” Glover told WTOP. “I have a special relationship and dedication to the D.C. area, specifically the dance community, so it was only right that we accepted the invitation from the theater. … I’m encouraging everybody to come on out and just enjoy themselves, enjoy the dance and the environment.”

He’ll be joined on stage by a six-piece band, a company of dancers and even a few surprises.

“My goal and continued effort toward awareness of tap dancing through these productions is just allowing people to enjoy tap dancing as they would enjoy a rock ‘n’ roll concert, gospel concert, jazz concert or what have you. It’s just on that vibe,” Glover said. “[In] ‘All FuNKD’ Up,’ I’m dealing with music that a more familiar audience wouldn’t anticipate me dancing to. It’s funky, it’s loose, it’s live, it’s high energy. I might have a couple special guests from friends.”

The show marks Glover’s return to D.C. after performing with Vanessa Williams in November at the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Tony Bennett held at DAR Constitution Hall.

“That was a really cool night,” Glover said. “I was happy to know that tap dancing would be included in such an esteemed evening. Aside from that, just being there to be able to honor Tony Bennett and his great contributions [to popular music], it was pleasurable.”

While Bennett was born in Queens, New York, in 1926, Glover was born in nearby Newark, New Jersey, decades later in 1973. Rather than pursue the baseball route like his grandfather, who played shortstop in the Negro Leagues, Glover found his way into tap dancing early on.

“My mother just signed us up, me and my two older brothers, she just signed us up for tap classes,” Glover said. “That was my basic introduction to tap dancing. It wasn’t until years later that I met great men like Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines, Lon Chaney, Honi Coles and all these great masters. Once I became ‘born again’ into the art form, it changed my life [and] allowed me to identify with the journey and an approach that would best allow me to express my life.”

Glover made his Broadway debut at age 11 in “The Tap Dance Kid” (1985) before earning his first Tony nomination at age 15 for “Black and Blue” (1989). He earned acclaim for “Jelly’s Last Jam” (1992), won the Tony for Best Choreography in “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” (1996) and even offered motion capture for an animated character in “Happy Feet” (2006).

“I was never really into the showbiz aspect. Everything was just the next thing to do,” he said. “Even though it was Broadway, it was just across the water for us. It was just taking a trip to do something. My mother always had us into something, Boy Scouts or whatever. Broadway was just another building. I’m honored and it’s my proud privilege to say I’m part of that community, but all in all, it was just another stage and another platform to share this gift.”

As his tap shoes furiously pepper the stage, do his feet ever get tired?

“Nah, at this point, it’s all mental,” Glover said. “At some point, it has to become you. We channel it and learn how to express ourselves through our art and through our work. It becomes a different muscle to work. The physicality is basically a given — that’s just Father Time doing what he does — but over time, it just becomes a mental massaging, a brain thing, a mind thing. My body is experiencing 44 years of living, but I’m still good.”

Who does Glover call the best tap dancer ever? It’s not Fred Astaire, but someone higher up.

“The best to ever do it was God,” Glover said with a laugh. “He’s still the best. There will never be anyone greater and whoever is next in line, I don’t know, but I wish them good luck.”

That’ll be quite the day watching the heavenly tap-off between Glover and God.

“I’ll meet you there,” Glover joked.

Click here for more details. Listen to our few conversation with Savion Glover below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Savion Glover (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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