Teenage Hoofer Savion Glover Helps Put Tap Back on the Map

updated 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Savion Glover got his first push toward performance in the cemetery behind his grandmother's house in Newark, N.J. He was only 7 when a cousin showed him how, with a running start, he could use a gravestone for leverage, turn a back flip and land on his feet. Stopping (barely) to trade tombstones for tap shoes, he has been on his feet ever since. In the new movie Tap, Glover, 15, hits the boards with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. In addition to making his film debut, Savion, who starred for two years in Broadway's The Tap Dance Kid, nearly steals the new Manhattan musical revue Black and Blue.

Glover traces his rhythmic roots back to the family kitchen in Newark. "I used to pick up knives and forks and play on the walls," he says. His mother, Yvette, a gospel singer, has raised Savion and his two older brothers alone since their father left when Glover was a toddler. When Savion was 3, she enrolled him in Suzuki percussion lessons. "One day the teacher said, 'He has to go,' " she recalls, "and I thought he did something that warranted discipline." In fact, the teacher wanted Savion to audition for the Newark Community School of the Arts. By 5, Glover had earned a full scholarship. The music soon went to his toes. "I do hoofing," he says. "It's not much with hands and body. I like to concentrate on my feet."

When director Nick Castle toured the country to cast Tap, people constantly asked if he'd seen Savion Glover. "Nobody has told Savion a human being can't dance as fast as that," says Hines. "I call him the Man, because he is the one who is going to shape tap for the future."

Between junior-high classes at the Jose Feliciano School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan and nights at the theater, Savion attends to his second love, basketball, takes calls from the girls who constantly phone his house and plays drums in a band called the 3-Plus. His main goal, to be a great tap dancer, seems merely a slide-step away. "The older guys want me to keep it going," he says proudly. "They say I'm the next generation."

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