Close-up: Savion Glover

It's not 'tap', it's 'hoofing' – and thanks to a penguin it's got a new lease of life
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The Independent Online

Few who saw the animated feature film Happy Feet (2006) will have been aware of its real star. His name came so low on the credits that most of the audience had gone home. Yet for Savion Glover, the 34-year-old tap-dance virtuoso from New Jersey who donned a motion-capture suit to "give hoof" to Mumble, the film's irrepressible penguin hero, it didn't seem such a raw deal. "I was just so excited that the dance could be central to a movie," he says. "There's a tendency to think tap's had its day, but Happy Feet kept us in the race. That penguin is our Shirley Temple."

Hoofing, says Glover, is distinct from tapping: "A tapper sticks to existing routines. Whereas hoofing..." and he detonates a riff that develops in the manner of jazz drumming, "...a hoofer pushes the art form."

Persuading audiences to appreciate the latter has become something of a mission for Glover. His own awakening happened at the age of 13 when he landed a part in the musical revue Black and Blue, alongside legendary hoofers Jimmy Slyde and Lon Chaney, and met its choreographer, the late, great Gregory Hines. "Once I saw what these cats were doing, I realised they weren't just great dancers; they were great musicians, they were dance composers, they were great entertainers, period.

"There's no dancer alive better than those of the 1950s and 1960s. It's only the energy that changes. Every now and then someone like me comes along and people say, 'Oh, this guy is this new thing.' But that's not so. There is no me without them. The tradition just goes on."

Glover's new show, 'Bare Soundz', is at Sadler's Wells, London EC1, tel: 0844 412 4300, from 26-29 November

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