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Savion Glover on Stephen Colbert


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#1 sandik

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 02:56 PM

I'm not sure exactly when he appeared (my son time shifted the program) but Glover was amiable and articulate (discussing the aural nature of tap dance, Colbert asked if he'd rather have an all-deaf audience or an all-blind one -- Glover immediately said "all-blind," which is very interesting in light of the recent comments on his new show), and then he started to dance...

And he was absolutely wonderful.

Perhaps someone here can track down a link?

#2 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 03:32 PM

I'm not sure exactly when he appeared (my son time shifted the program) but Glover was amiable and articulate (discussing the aural nature of tap dance, Colbert asked if he'd rather have an all-deaf audience or an all-blind one -- Glover immediately said "all-blind," which is very interesting in light of the recent comments on his new show), and then he started to dance...

And he was absolutely wonderful.

Perhaps someone here can track down a link?


Try this: Savion Glover - The Colbert Report

#3 Helene

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 04:39 PM

This is the link for Canada:

http://watch.thecome...k.ca/#clip10972

(Although it won't load for me...)

#4 bart

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 04:57 PM

I've seen Glover in live performance. He's a charming man and an amazing technician. However, as regards to this tv appearance ....

I'm interested in how people feel about the choice that Glover made (when pressed): preferring an audience that does not see to one that does not hear.

First I listened with my eyes closed. Then I watched with the sound turned off. I KNOW I am missing something here, but both struck me as highly tedious, though for different reasons.

Combining sight and sound was better. However, I found my mind wandering after a couple of minutes. What am I missing that I might look for next time?

:helpsmilie:

#5 abatt

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 09:42 AM

I saw Savion's recent show at the Joyce in New York. He regards tap as the use of percusive instruments (his feet), and he wants the audience to focus in on the sounds and rhythms he creates through tap. Visual elements, such as his dreadlocks, his costume, are a distraction. To his mind, visual elements distract from the core component of tap, which is based on hearing the sounds made by the feet. This is similar to flamenco dancing, in which the sounds made by the feet are an essential component of the performance, although flamenco also incorporates many visual elements (like spinal flexibility and use of the arms, especially of the women dancers.) Savion's views regarding tap are the opposite perspective from ballet, which is completely dependent on the visual components of the performance. (Don't we all complain when the pointe shoes of the corps make loud, distracting sounds on stage. Didn't Balanchine say he would rather have a dancer fall than to hear squeaks from dancer's shoes.)

#6 sandik

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 01:25 PM

There are several different schools in tap, and it's gone through incredible changes in the last 100 years or so, which makes it tricky to have any kind of generalized 'rulebook,' but fundamentally it is all about rhythm. The Cliff Notes version -- tap is a percussive dance form, but unlike flamenco, which has roots in Northern Indian forms like Kathak, the tap we see in the US is primarily a combination of African and Irish forms. The polyrhythms from African dance, that were translated into percussive music (instruments and bodies) when slaves were forbidden to practice the dance they brought with them to the Americas, are fused to the heel/toe work that you find in Irish clogging and step-dancing. Because tap developed primarily in popular entertainment settings (music halls/vaudeville/musical theater and film) it's been influenced by changes in popular music.

Since it's been taught in a very individual (one on one) fashion, and been used often in solo forms, there's incredible variation in style between performers. Early films show work that is very upright, rebounding off the floor, which I think comes in part from the clogging part of its heritage (think about the solo Ashton made for the Widow Simone in Fille). That expands later to include work that reaches out and down, so that you really see the dancer 'make the sound,' and there have been exponents of both views ever since. For quite awhile, Bill Robinson was the ne plus ultra of tappers, and his upright, delicate style is the one that many people associate with tap dancing (all those films with Shirley Temple), but really, think about the difference between Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly -- Astaire barely seems to contact the floor in some of his work, so that you're not really sure where the sound is coming from, while Kelly is much more grounded.

Bart, I'm so impressed with your experiment. I absolutely understand Glover's response to Colbert's 'either/or' question, but I admit I have incredible trouble closing my eyes when Glover is performing. He's bringing his Bare Soundz show to Seattle again this year (big chunks of the program are danced without any music at all) and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again -- in a funny way the whole thing reminds me of Mozart and the structural games he plays.

#7 bart

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 03:29 PM

Thanks for the background to this, abatt and Sandi.

Although Glover does not carry himself like a flamenco dancer, and although what he does with his feet is not the same, I do see the similarities you point out.

I saw Savion's recent show at the Joyce in New York. He regards tap as the use of percussive instruments (his feet), and he wants the audience to focus in on the sounds and rhythms he creates through tap. Visual elements, such as his dreadlocks, his costume, are a distraction. To his mind, visual elements distract from the core component of tap, which is based on hearing the sounds made by the feet. This is similar to flamenco dancing, in which the sounds made by the feet are an essential component of the performance, although flamenco also incorporates many visual elements (like spinal flexibility and use of the arms, especially of the women dancers.)

This confirms my recollections of flamenco performances outside Granada during the Franco era. One could indeed appreciate these performances without seeing them. My impression was that the most important and admired performer was actually the singer, some of whom were local cultural heroes. The dancer (often limited by a small "stage") seemed to be more of a supporting artist, and definitely a percussionist, just as you say as you say. Complicated clapping was also part of this.

The polyrhythms from African dance, that were translated into percussive music (instruments and bodies) when slaves were forbidden to practice the dance they brought with them to the Americas, ...

Authentic flamenco was strongly discouraged by the Franco regime when I was there in the mid-60s. (I don't count the pseudo-flamenco tourist versions that were starting to pop up in places like Madrid.) Flamenco was seen as subversive of genuine "Spanish" (i.e., Catholic, Castilian, centralising) culture. It was associated with too many things the dictatorship feared and therefore hated: Gypsies, southern resistance to central government, lower-class radicalism, regional patriotism.

I don't know whether flamenco was "forbidden," but I do recall the feeling of something private and almost secretive about these performances and the places where they took place.

#8 abatt

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 08:37 AM

I wanted to just add, in relation to Sandik's post, that Savion Glover's broadway show, Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk (during the 1990s) was about how tap in the African American community began during slavery. Also, re Bart's comment on the clapping in flamenco, this is referred to as "palmas" and is an integral part of the percussive elements of flamenco. This has been an interesting discussion.

#9 sandik

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 11:03 AM

I don't know whether flamenco was "forbidden," but I do recall the feeling of something private and almost secretive about these performances and the places where they took place.


My understanding is that it does have a very private history, and has acted almost like a shibboleth for the groups who practice it. There is a huge distinction between 'the real thing' and the forms that are seen in tourist venues (like the differences between what is often called airport hula and the more authentic dance that is being revived and taught by new generations of kuma hula) Flamenco clubs often have the same feeling as the old speakeasies in the 1920s -- that you might need to know the right password to get accepted.


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