Savion!: My Life in Tap

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Born to save tap

Fuh-duh-BAP! Fuh-duh-duh-BAP! A new language, a new sound. Savion Glover has redefined tap dancing, and it can never be the same again. He speaks to the world with a power and ease that has stunned and captivated millions. This exciting biography captures that essence--often in Glover's own voice--and treats readers to an inside look at his work while also providing a brief yet compelling history of tap dancing. Reverberating with the rhythm of a unique musical ...

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Overview

Born to save tap

Fuh-duh-BAP! Fuh-duh-duh-BAP! A new language, a new sound. Savion Glover has redefined tap dancing, and it can never be the same again. He speaks to the world with a power and ease that has stunned and captivated millions. This exciting biography captures that essence--often in Glover's own voice--and treats readers to an inside look at his work while also providing a brief yet compelling history of tap dancing. Reverberating with the rhythm of a unique musical language, the book includes more than 50 photographs and features an eye-catching two-color design.

Foreword by Gregory Hines
Fuh-duh-BAP! Fuh-duh-duh-BAP! A new language, a new sound. Savion Glover has redefined tap dancing, and it can never be the same again. He speaks to the world with a power and ease that has stunned and captivated millions. This exciting biography captures that essence--often in Glover's own voice--and treats readers to an inside look at his work while also providing a brief yet compelling history of tap dancing. Reverberating with the rhythm of a unique musical language, the book includes over fifty photographs and features an eye-catching two-color design. All ages.

"He's the greatest tap dancer to ever lace up a pair of Capezios or any other tap shoes."-- Gregory Hines in the Foreword to Savion: My Life in Tap

2001 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)

Foreword by Gregory Hines
Fuh-duh-BAP! Fuh-duh-duh-BAP! A new language, a new sound. Savion Glover has redefined tap dancing, and it can never be the same again. He speaks to the world with a power and ease that has stunned and captivated millions. This exciting biography captures that essence--often inGlover's own voice--and treats readers to an inside look at his work while also providing a brief yet compelling history of tap dancing. Reverberating with the rhythm of a unique musical language, the book includes over fifty photographs and features an eye-catching two-color design. All ages.

"He's the greatest tap dancer to ever lace up a pair of Capezios or any other tap shoes."--Gregory Hines in the Foreword to Savion: My Life in Tap

Examines the life and career of the young tap dancer who speaks with his feet and who choreographed the Tony Award-winning Broadway show "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The loose and limber voice of dance wunderkind Glover wafts through this brief and inviting biography, echoing the rhythms and energy of his kinetic feet. Journalist Weber's atmospheric account starts in a dance studio with an intermittently onomatopoeic discussion of tap dance ("Fuh-duh-BAP!... Fuh-duh-duh-BAP!) and goes on to fill in the auspicious beginnings and landmark events that paved the way for the 26-year-old's extraordinary career thus far. Gregory Hines's foreword--which has the ring of a proud father--first sounds the volume's recurring refrain about the importance of young dancers copying the style of the masters and expanding on the steps that came before them. Throughout Glover's extensive quotes (which appear in their own type style and go on for several pages at a stretch), he clearly and repeatedly indicates that this principle applies not only to dance but to life itself. As Weber traces the shaping of Glover's career from drummer to dancer to Broadway sensation at age 11 to conceiver of Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (for which Glover won a Tony Award for his choreography), he punctuates the facts with quotes from Glover's mother, brothers and professional peers. Vintage photographs of renowned hoofers accompany a concise history of tap, while pictures of Glover in action convey the dancer's magnetism and joie de vivre. The book's daring design occasionally draws attention to itself with its variety of fonts and type sizes (some very small), set against red, black or white backgrounds, and a fair number of photographs have a grainy quality. But these are quibbles when compared with the inspiration that aspiring performers will find in these pages. Glover's life, work and words will be a powerful reminder to youngsters that they are a part of all that preceded them and that they possess all that's necessary to make their own mark. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Savion! My Life in Tap offers its readers glimpses into new worlds—the glamour and glitz of Broadway and the creative spirit of an artist. The story is told in two alternating voices: Savion Glover reflects on his own life and Bruce Weber, a cultural correspondent for the New York Times, adds his own perspective, filling in details of Savion's personal biography while also providing a short history of tap dancing and showing how tap grew out of the cross-fertilization of European and African cultures. "As people shared with each other—and borrowed and stole—new kinds of songs emerged. New beats. New rhthms. New dances." Of course Savion's take on tap is unlike any other's. Savion comes from a great tradition but his interpretation is his own. As Bruce Weber explains, "Savion grew up with sounds that his elders never heard, and the music from his shoes reflects this; his feet speak hip-hop." In his foreword, Gregory Hines, who was both mentor and inspiration for Savion, speaks of the speed, clarity, power, and ease in Savion's dancing; he finds genius there as well. Savion has this to say about his life's work: "But tapping isn't about repertoire anyway, knowing steps, memorizing steps. I mean, you got to know how do things, the rudiments, but it's about making sounds, bringing sounds, bringing the funk." Born in 1973, Savion grew up in Newark, New Jersey, with his mother and two older brothers. His grandmother was a church organist and his grandfather played the keyboard at the Borscht Belt hotels in the Catskills. When Savion was four and a half, his mother enrolled him in suzuki classes at the Newark School for Performing Arts. By the age of six, "he was readyfor the world to hear him" and he became part of a group of four young boys called "Three Plus." They played in parks, at fairs, weddings and parties, as well as at the Broadway Dance Center. Savion remembers "we did standards like 'Take the A Train,' 'In a Sentimental Mood,' but we could also kick it." Savion started dancing with " the icons of the form"—Lon Chaney, Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green, Buster Brown. He performed in The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway and in Black and Blue in Paris. He learned to create his own kind of dance: "I saw it wasn't about pleasing the audience; it was about expressing yourself." He appeared on Sesame Street and then became a regular. At eighteen he played the young jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton in Jelly's Last Jam, with Gregory Hines playing the adult Jelly Roll. Hines concluded, "Savion's the one who will lead tap into the next century." Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, conceived and choreographed by Savion, opened on November 15, 1995. Weber calls the story "in one sense the history of America and in another sense the evolution of American rhythm." And, he writes "It was the show that made Savion a star, and that won him a Tony Award for his choreography. In many ways, it changed the stodgy world of Broadway theater forever, opening it up to hip-hop culture for the first time." Savion tells us he put his heart and soul into the show—"everything I'd learned, onstage, offstage, about the dance, about the theater, about the audience." The more than fifty photographs in Savion! show the artist at different stages in his life. They capture the energy, vitality, and joy of his dance. Viewed together, they provide an intimate portrait of the artist, his personality, his agility, his rhythm, his individuality, and his deep commitment to the art form. Paula Kelly's design of the book is lively, experimental, and effective. Her expressive use of type and the clever addition of red interspersed throughout make the words jump out and "bring in 'da noise." Through text, photographs, and the book's design, Savion Glover shares a rare gift. It's no wonder that Gregory Hines says Savion "has redefined tap dancing" and that he belongs in a category with jazz greats Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington. 2000, William Morrow, $19.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kem Knapp Sawyer — The Five Owls, September/October 2000 (Vol. 15 No. 1)
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
If there is an incessant tapper in your home or classroom, Savion is the book you want for that person. Born tappers may use their fingers or their feet, but they tap--constantly and often unconsciously--on any surface anywhere. Sound familiar? Savion Glover taps with his feet, often in untied Capezios, and has tapped his way into tap dance history, as a child star on several Broadway stages and a Tony-award winner as choreographer for "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk." Journalist Bruce Weber introduces readers to Savion's mother, talks about the early influences on his life and provides a fair amount of tap dance history and culture. It is all punctuated with current and archival photographs, oversize type that often taps its way right off the page, and frequent paragraphs written by Savion himself, "I know my feet, all about them. It's like my feet are the drums, and my shoes are the sticks." It is a fascinating, lively story that will hold your interest whether you're sure you won't survive with or without just one more tap! 2000, William Morrow and Company Inc., Ages 10 to 15, $19.95. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
VOYA - Voya Reviews
The life and talent of dance sensation and choreographer Savion Glover is given stunning treatment in this graphically exciting book. The text alternates between Glover's own words and those of his biographer, using different fonts so that the reader recognizes right away who is speaking. Glover's beginnings as a child sensation and Broadway star at age eleven and his growth over the years are shown, including his work as the choreographer of Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, for which he won a Tony Award. The respect Glover has for the great dancers who came before him and for what he learned from them is a featured theme. Quotations from his family and his peers are included throughout. Glover comes across in this vibrant book as confident but not arrogant. The black, white, and red text dances around the pages in a style and format that complement the subject matter. The photographs are well chosen, expressing movement and vitality. More than a book about dance and a dancer, this title is about working hard and following your dreams. It will be an inspiration to young people with dreams of their own and belongs in any young adult biography or popular culture collection. Photos. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Morrow, Ages 12 to 15, 80p, $19.95. Reviewer: Alice F. Stern
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-A fascinating account of the remarkable career of the young dancer/choreographer whose incorporation of rap and hip-hop into a declining American art form renewed the popularity of tap dancing. Glover has brought tap to a wide audience in shows like The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue, Jelly's Last Jam, and his own Tony Award-winning Bring in `da Noise, Bring in `da Funk. Profusely illustrated with animated black-and-white photos, some of them double-page spreads, of both Savion and the earlier tap-dance stars who were his heroes and role models, this book conveys all of the exuberance and sound of tapping. The use of large letters in black, white, or red interspersed throughout to spell out tapping sounds like "Fuh-duh-BAP-duh-duh!" or "Tickety BLOO Kah" is particularly expressive of the action and rhythm. Readers will be inspired by Savion's creativity and devotion to his art and by such tidbits of his personal philosophy as, "Whatever you do, dancing or whatever, you got to hit. Don't sleep on it. Just hit-dancing is like life. The lessons of one are the lessons of the other." An outstanding, attractive addition to any biography collection.-Ginny Gustin, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688156299
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Pages: 80
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.25 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Savion Glover burst on the scene in The Tap Dance Kid and Jelly's Last Jam, and has since gone on to wow audiences in the Broadway hit Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk. He has also performed at the White House, the Academy Awards, and the Super Bowl.

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Read an Excerpt

Hittin'


Fuh-duh-BAP!

In a small dance studio on Manhattan's West Side, an argument rages.

Fuh-duh-duh-BAP!

"Naw, naw!"

The argument is wordless, but it isn't soundless. This is a dance troupe, Not Your Ordinary Tappers, arguing with their feet—conversation among shoes rattling on a wooden floor.

Fuh-BAP!

"Wha'?"

One of the newer dancers has been having trouble with the wing step, in which a dancer leaps off the floor, kicks one foot to one side, and executes several hits on the floor with the other. A couple of the others are showing him how it's done.

Then Savion Glover, the leader of the group, steps in. "Dig it! Dig it!" he says, and then goes on with his feet:

Fuh-duh-BAP-duh-duh-!


After an emphatic left heel stroke he manages two extra hits on the floor with other parts of the shoe before the right foot—the wing foot—flying off to the side comes to earth.

A silence in the room. There. That's settled.

Just in his twenties, Savion Glover is the settler of all arguments about tap dancing, the resolver of all questions, even the big one: Who's the best?

"Savvy's just put a whole other energy into it, leaving everybody in the dust," says tap legend Jimmy Slyde, who is more than seventy years old and still smooth. "But that's what it's all about."

Savion is the artistic grandson of some of tap's most revered figures, people like Jimmy Slyde, Honi Coles, Chuck Green, Lon Chaney, and Bunny Briggs, and heir to the generation of dancers led by the Hines brothers,Gregory and Maurice. As a child, then as a teenager, he took his place beside them in such Broadway productions as The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue, and Jelly's Last Jam and in the film Tap.

But coming to adulthood in the 1990s, Savion grew up with sounds that his elders never heard, and the music from his shoes reflects this; his feet speak hip-hop. Watching Savion dance, listening to him dance, one hears the rhythms of a boom box rap or a funky blues. Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, the Tony Award-winning Broadway show he choreographed, brought the history of rhythm in America up-to-date and in the process made tap dancing cool again. Savion is the first young tapper in a generation to have imitators, and almost all by himself he has reawakened an art form.

It's a little hard to imagine such accomplishment in one so young. But in manner and appearance, he's still youthful—sweet-tempered, prone to goofiness, and with strangers as polite as a boy in church.

He's a baby face with a beard, a puckermouthed boy-man, dressed ordinarily in baggy unmatched clothing, shoes perennially untied, with tight spirals of hair sprouting on his head like young coral. Gangly, lithe, and athletic, he has bunched muscles in his calves and long, beveled ankles that make it seem as if his feet are dangling loosely off the end of them like castanets. Those feet are a remarkable physical thing—size 12 1/2 EE—big for a dancer but, more important, with an array of seemingly independent parts

"Drummers play drums, dancers play the floor," he's fond of saying. Watch him. Watch him for just a few seconds, and you count a dozen or more places on his feet that hit the floor and make different sounds: a whole rattletrap full of thwacks, clacks, tippy-tippies, thunks, sweeps, swishes, and slams. Plus, he's loud. Savion likes loud. Gregory Hines says Savion hits the floor harder than anyone he's ever seen, and he claims Savion can be heard tapping on carpet.

"The Pied Tapper," Hines calls him, the Michael Jordan of tap—though perhaps a better comparison would be to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the basketball stars of the 1980s who propelled their game to the vast popularity it enjoys today. Indeed, in the wake of Savion's early success and early fame, there are signs that tapping is now more popular in this country than it has ever been before. Tap festivals now take place throughout the United States; the International Tap Association, a group founded in 1988 to keep tappers informed of tap activities, has doubled in size since 1993; and the success here of such shows as Ireland's Riverdance testifies to a surge in appreciation of the noise and funk that dancers everywhere can bring with their feet.

By now you've probably seen Savion dancing with his mirrored reflection in an advertisement for Coca-Cola. Or with the rap star/producer Puff Daddy in a music video on MTV. Or on his own ABC special. Or with the country rock singer Hank Williams, Jr., in the opening credits for ABC's Monday Night Football. Or acting in a TV special on Showtime. Or performing with Not Your Ordinary Tappers (NYOTs) onstage in their touring show. You might see his choreography in a new musical about the Harlem Globetrotters. Throw in his performance on Sesame Street, and you've got a young artist engaging a remarkably wide cross section of the American mainstream.

Tap, to flourish in the twenty-first century, needs his stardom. But it also needs his dancing. In the past those two things have not been easily reconciled, but if anyone can do it, Savion is the man.

He is unique in this regard, a young artist with the future of an art form at his feet.

People always want to know where an idea for a step comes from, where an idea for a dance comes from. It's hard to know. I don't think about process too much. I think about hittin', which is what tappers do. We hit! It's a gut thing, an artist's thing. You. . .

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