Savion Glover's new tap dance show, "Stepz"—on tour now after its summer debut at New York City's Joyce Theater—shuffles into Chicago Friday. Not only does it star Glover—whose Tony Award-winning "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk" brought the classic American dance style to a fresh, contemporary level in 1996—and male hoofer Marshall Davis, Jr., but will also feature a corps of ladies known as 3CW (3 Controversial Women).
The show pays tribute to vintage and modern choreography and music with a recorded score that ranges from neo-classical (Dmitri Shostakovich) to jazz (John Coltrane) to pop (Prince). We checked in with the ladies--Robyn Watson of Philadelphia, Ayodele Casel of New York City and Sarah Savelli of Cleveland--to find out how they got their start, their favorite numbers in the show and more. Read the full interview online at redeyechicago.com.
"Savion Glover's Stepz"
Go: 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.
Tickets: $30-$55. 312-334-7777; harristheaterchicago.org
How did you get your start tap dancing?
Robyn Watson: My mom took me to my first tap class at the age of five. I fell in love with the dance at the age of eight. The rest is history.
Ayodele Casel: When I was in high school, I became obsessed with classic movies. It was during the time I was introduced to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' films that I got the bug for tap dancing. At the age of 19, while attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts as an acting major, I was finally able to take an actual tap class and I fell in love with it. But when I met Savion Glover a year or so later during his work on "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk," I knew I'd be tap dancing for the rest of my life.
Sarah Savelli: My mother has been the owner-director of a dance studio since I was two. I started dancing at three, tap dancing at age four.
What drew you to tap?
RW: Well, at age 5, [I was] amazed that sound could come out of my feet just by putting these shoes on. By 8, I understood that I could make rhythms and polyrhythms. By 13, I loved the fact that I could be another instrument added to the music. Now I understand being the music, mood, and expression simultaneously. It continues to draw me because there will always be so much to learn about this wonder.
AC: I was immediately drawn to how expressive, individual and unique it was to each dancer. I also was drawn to the idea of being percussive, but what I really loved was how rich its history was. I felt that it was an art form with a great legacy, and I was proud to be a part of it. Tap dance is a relatively young art form, so to have been able to witness firsthand the genius and generosity of Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown [and] Harold and Fayard Nicholas, among others, was an incredible blessing.
SS: The awesome intricacies of rhythm and music and the ability to create or contribute to both through this art form.
The show features quite a range of songs. Which one has become your favorite?
RW: The Shostakovich piece. It's storytelling at its finest through the dance. The music has so many levels. I love it. "When the Lights Go Down" by Prince is a close second. It's warm, cool and sassy all at the same time.
AC: That's a hard one. When we were in rehearsals last year, each time we'd start a new dance I'd think, "This one is my favorite!," so they all became favorites. But now, I'd have to say that I love dancing Prince's "When the Lights Go Down." It's a great song with a great groove and Savion's choreography marries it perfectly. [It's] incredibly musical and downright sexy. I also look forward to Savion's "Flamenco Sketches" and "Bojangles" solos every single night. As a dancer, he's so exciting to watch but it's even more delectable to listen to him. I am in awe and inspired by his virtuosity and there isn't a night I don't get goose bumps during those moments.
SS: I love all of the pieces and enjoy dancing each for a different reason, but my current favorite is the classical piece written by Shostakovich. I played violin for 10 years, so two loves of mine are combined when I get to dance it. In addition to that, Savion's vision for the piece is so specific and perfectly aligned with the mood and melody of the music that I get swept up in it completely.
What's your favorite song to warm up to?
RW: It depends on the day.
AC: When we were preparing for the Joyce season in NYC, I'd play Prince's "When the Lights Go Down" each day before leaving for the theater, but since we've been on the road, the girls and I have a little Adele, Bruno Mars [and] Amy Winehouse radio happening in the dressing room—with a side of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s rendition of "The Rhythm of Life."
SS: I've been really enjoying any of my music that's written in three-quarter [time] lately; "All Blues" or "The Gravy Waltz."
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not dancing?
RW: Going to a museum. I love museums.
SS: I love to sing show tunes—I sound awful—at the top of my lungs and dance around in my kitchen with my 12-year-old daughter, Sophie. We keep a baton and a cane stored in there for such impromptu performances.