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Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

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Seen and Heard at the Dance Teacher Summit

By the time he was 18, Mike Minery was already a tap innovator. It was then that he created the “shiggy bop,” a challenging step that has become a mainstay of his classes with JUMP Dance Convention. Here, he speaks with DT about teaching and choreographing tap, plus how to invent your own step.

Dance Teacher: Why is across-the-floor especially

important in a tap class?

Mike Minery: We tend to focus so much on footwork that a lot of times we forget about moving through space. You have to both sound and look good when you tap dance. I think one of the best examples is Gregory Hines in White Nights when he’s in the studio. He’s running around and traveling nonstop through that entire segment. It’s really important for kids to get used to using their space instead of standing in one spot and concentrating on technical steps all the time.

DT: So are your exercises not strictly technical? How do you switch it up?

MM: I try not to do the traditional “just do pullbacks across the floor.” I like to change it up and keep it fresh for students. There should be different layers to any exercise. I’ll start with a step I want students to work on—pullbacks for instance—then I’ll build a phrase that incorporates the step with movement that can travel. This helps me see if they’ve really mastered the step. Then I play with adding speed or maybe making it turn, all while they’re traveling. Students feel like they’re learning a combo instead of just focusing on a step, but you can give them technical pointers along the way.

DT: What does it take to create a new tap step?

MM: Tap has endless possibilities. It’s pretty much all formed from a variation of the same six steps: step-heels, dig-taps, flaps, shuffles, pullbacks and wings. It’s a very common vocabulary, but there is room for creativity. It’s kind of like music. It’s all the same chords, but there are infinite ways to arrange them.

I always encourage people to just spend time in the studio. You don’t really set out to make something up; but the more time you spend just moving, taking class or watching videos, the more ideas that just morph into something new. That’s how the shiggy bop happened. I was in the studio and started wondering what the opposite of a pullback would be, and as I played around it just happened. Later, Bob Rizzo heard me scat while I did it, and that’s where the name came from.

Photo by Mia Stringer, courtesy of Break The Floor Productions 

Music for rhythm tap

When Mike Minery’s students enter Wednesday tap class at For Dancers Only in Little Falls, New Jersey, they already know what technique drills are coming. “Soon after I first started teaching, I realized I was just coming up with combinations. I wasn’t really teaching technique,” says Minery. “Now I’ve made an exercise for every step we use in a combination. We do them each week and add on when the students get more advanced.” The tailored phrases allow the dancers to continue polishing their most basic skills while advancing their tap vocabulary.

As a teacher with JUMP, Minery gets a solid gauge of tappers’ technical pitfalls. His biggest gripe is musicality, finding that students often speed through combinations, equating pace with skill level. “Tap gives you an adrenaline that makes you want to rush. But slow down, play with the melody and pick out the accents,” he says. “That’s the most unique way to stand out.” DT

Artist: Oscar Peterson

Album: A Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra

“He’s phenomenal and phrases his solos so well. It’s more for myself—when I’m in the studio improvising and choreographing—but also for exercises in class.”

 

 

Artist: Bruno Mars

Album: Unorthodox Jukebox

“Tap can be fun and cool. It doesn’t have to fit the stereotype that it’s old-timey stuff. ‘Natalie’ and ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ are my favorites on Mars’ new CD. There’s a funk or Motown feel to the album that goes well with tap. There are some bad words, but I always edit them out.”

 

Artist: Batida do Corpo

Album: Body Percussion

“I recently did a group piece to this. I use a lot of world music to vary it up. This is rhythmically really interesting. The bonus track ‘Amazonas’ features Fatboy Slim.”

 

 

Artist: Jason Mraz

Song: “You and I Both”

“Jason Mraz is my favorite artist. ‘You and I Both’ is great for a duet between a guy and a girl. (I’ve performed it with my girlfriend.) It’s very quick and percussive with a lot of counterrhythms and partial rhythms.”

 

 

Artist: Dee Dee Bridgewater

Album: Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver

“She’s kind of a modern day Ella Fitzgerald and probably the best jazz vocalist right now. I’ve used this for solos for girls. She has great phrasing and a nice edge. She scats a lot, so you can take her rhythms and match the choreography.”

 

Artist: Josh Vietti

Song: “Green Light”

“I choreograph so much that I really try to run the gamut of every type of music—I don’t want to hit the same note over and over. This is like hip-hop violin. A lot of his stuff is very funky.”

 

 

Photo courtesy of JUMP

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