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Savion Glover refuses to show critic his feet

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#1 dirac


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 10:49 AM

In the January 13/20 double issue of The Nation, there is a piece by Diane Rafferty on Savion Glover (link unavaible online). There is a vivid description of Glover, characterized by Rafferty as "the greatest tap dancer who ever breathed," onstage, and then an arresting account of a half-hour "lecture-demonstration" by Glover, who is currently touring his show "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk" in the US and Japan. Glover doesn't appear immediately, tapping behind the stage where only part of his head can be seen; finally Rafferty calls out, "Can we see your feet, please?" Glover eventually appears. Following the brief program, Rafferty goes backstage for an interview and after a wait is given ten minutes with the star. Rafferty tells us:

He was sitting with his sneakers unlaced, so, because it's the first thing every dancer really wants to know about another dancer and because by this time I wanted to cut to the chase, I asked Glover to show me his feet and offered to show him mine, which are pretty banged up from toe dancing.

Glover proves unreceptive to this proposal, and the interview proceeds:

I then asked Glover whether he acknowledged any Celtic influence on tap.  He said, "What's Celtic?"  I tried to explain…..Incredulous, Glover said sarcastically, "Oh, you mean Riverdance?  No, there is no white influence on tap."  Since I'm not a masochist, I cut the interview short, politely pointed out that his own book…mentions Scottish and Irish influences on tap, and handed him a gift I'd brought:  a CD of Arthur Rubinstein playing  [the "Emperor" concerto] on the inside of which I had written:  "To Savion:  Your feet remind me of Rubinstein's hands."  I left without looking back.

End of article.

#2 Juliet


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 11:01 AM

I don't know any dancer who will show a reporter or a stranger his feet, just like that. Banged-up feet from "toe-dancing" in exchange or not.

These people are humans, not performing dogs--she got him after a show, who knows how the Celtic question was phrased (even differences iin pronunciation have been known to misfire in libary reference negotiations, I have found)--so, this was a wash. I think they were speaking different languages--maybe there would have been no need for a translator in a different set of circumstances.
Obviously not a happy match of reporter and subject!

#3 Manhattnik


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 11:21 AM

"To Savion: Your feet remind me of Rubinstein's hands." Gag me.

it's the first thing every dancer really wants to know about another dancer... Sez who? This just reinforces the idea that dancers are doltishly obsessive, tunnel-visioned fanatics. I'll bet if you took a poll of a dozen or so dancer, real dancers, most of them wouldn't consider feet to be of such overwhelming primacy. Gag me again.

Y'know, I sometimes look back at my days as an Intrepid Dance Reporter in my misspent youth, and cringe at some of the dumb things I asked, or told, people. But this has to be just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard of, or imagined.

Unless you're an investigative reporter in an adversarial situation (clearly not the case here, except that Ms. Smartypants Toni Bentley Wannabee decided to turn it into one), you don't condescend to your subject. You try to help your subject avoid making a fool of himself (although in this interview, there was only one fool, and it wasn't Glover!). If you must correct him, you do so gently.

You ACTUALLY LISTEN to what your subject has to say, and try to help him give shape to his thoughts more clearly. Although it's impossible to walk into an interview without preconceived ideas and a game plan (nothing wrong with doing one's homework), you don't let those get in the way of whatever might actually transpire. Usually your subject is a lot more interesting than you might imagine, if you just shut the hell up and listen. Even if your subject is an arrogant PITA, as she hints of Glover.

You don't showboat. You're not there to impress your subject with how smart, artistic, erudite or accomplished you are. Or your readers, either, unless The Nation has been distributing stupid pills to its subscribers. Or to its editors?

It's not just that Rafferty's offer to play footsie with Glover was inappropriate, self-aggrandizing, condescending and more than a little insulting and perhaps even just plain racist (Would she have asked Nina Anansiashvili to show her her feet? Peter Martins? I'd like to see her try!); it was amazingly unprofessional, and, worse, made for a bad interview, unless she wanted her readers to learn more about her than Glover. And indeed at least one has; although what I've learned about Rafferty probably isn't at all what she intended to convey.

This is what the Nation prefers to Mindy Aloff?

[snip, A.T.]

#4 dirac


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 11:34 AM

Well, it was just a brief demonstration and not a show, but I was bothered by some of these things, too. ( I'm not a dancer, after all, and if foot display is customary during interviews I wouldn't necessarily know about it.) It seemed like an odd gambit to get a brief interview underway, and one can hardly blame Glover for being uninterested in viewing Rafferty's bunions. Naturally things went downhill from there.

I should note again that the first part of her piece, a description of Glover as a performer, is complimentary and interesting. But this was......rather strange.

#5 Calliope


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Posted 10 January 2003 - 11:44 AM

What a bizarre piece.
I know there's been rumors about Glover and whether or not he's always tapping (tap syncing is what the alleged charge was)
I don't know if Rafferty was hinting at that, or just looking to swap battle scars. I can't stand anybody's feet, so the mere thought of it gives me the heebeejeebies.

#6 grace


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Posted 11 January 2003 - 05:01 PM

...because it's the first thing every dancer really wants to know about another dancer ...


i don't THINK so.


#7 Watermill


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Posted 11 January 2003 - 05:09 PM

...not to mention that her gushing he's "the greatest" tap dancer who every lived...don't think he could keep up with either Nicholas brother...in speed or flexibility or inventiveness.

#8 Farrell Fan

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Posted 12 January 2003 - 10:43 AM

I thought this was an unusually well-written piece, not at all weird, and provided a memorable prose snapshot of both Rafferty and Glover. Dirac was more than fair in pointing out that the first part of the article was basically admiring of its subject, but the article needs to be read in its entirety to appreciate it. It's too bad when magazine articles like the New Yorker Farrell profile and Rafferty's Nation reviews are unavailable online. Fortunately, I subscribe to both publications.

#9 Guest_Dance Fish_*

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 11:08 AM

This was a little...odd. I don't go around asking all the dancers I see, "Ooh, may I see your feet? I love looking at dancers' feet!"

Plus, I don't know if I'd want to smell what comes along with the sight of feet...

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 12:20 PM

I seem to remember the old TV sitcom "Rhoda" and her sister, who was played by Julie Kavner. This character was infamous for having totally dorky dates. One of them, the archetypal geek, skinny, thick black eyeglass-rims, top-button-of-the-shirt-buttoned, and pull-over argyle vest used to only watch TV with her all evening while they sat on the sofa. One night he made a suggestive proposition as they sat there with their feet propped up on the coffee table: "Let's show our toes!":P

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