Steps right up

NJPAC Dance Advisor Savion Glover is ready for the Arts Center’s 20th anniversary dance season.


The music that Savion Glover wraps around his ears is as essential to his art as the tap shoes he wraps around his feet.


His career was built on the successful fusion of these two artistic expressions – movement and music – which together produce the singular experience of an unforgettable dance performance. Whenever Glover, who is NJPAC’s Dance Advisor, talks about his influential dance mentors, he acknowledges his musical inspirations as well, such as jazz pioneers Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane.


That harmony is also why, when NJPAC programs an entire dance season, it’s good thinking when the repertoire appeals to audiences on either a physical or musical level – and happily both.


Dance at NJPAC radiates “a new energy,” says the Tony Award-winning choreographer and tap genius from Newark, who will follow up last year’s Savion Glover’s Chronology of a HooFer by creating and starring in a new work on December 7.


Glover indicates he’ll be among the first in line to see the Arts Center’s annual engagement of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a company steeped in the jazz tradition – yet this season he also has the options of hip-hop set to Tchaikovsky, rich orchestrations accompanying classical Russian ballet, and slinky tangos from Argentina. 


NJPAC is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Glover remembers its opening night from behind the footlights, when he was a 23-year-old performer. In the time since, his musical expertise coalesced by listening to artists in Prudential Hall: Luther Vandross, Brian McKnight, Jill Scott and many others.


“All of these great contributors to the arts I’ve been influenced by, whether in immediate proximity or distance,” says Glover, who mentions tappers Gregory Hines and Dianne Walker among his many guiding stars, living and departed. “I continue to be inspired … by those who are not here. So it’s up to me – and I advise us all – to continue to study these men and women.”



In addition to An Evening with Savion Glover on December 7, there’s plenty for dance fans to enjoy “studying.”


The hottest YouTube dancers move from the small screen to the big stage in #FOLLOWME, an interactive experience for viewers who prefer to watch their dance idols live. The #FOLLOWME tour lineup on August 18 features WilldaBeast, Nia Sioux, Kenneth San Jose and Janelle Ginestra. Another sizzler, Tango Buenos Aires, a production with Broadway roots, holds audiences close in its embrace of one of the world’s most versatile and popular dances on October 26.


Two Nutcrackers have Tchaikovsky’s beloved score and the same weekend at NJPAC in common, but are otherwise polar opposites. Jennifer Weber’s gravity-defying The Hip Hop Nutcracker journeys back to the club scene of 1980s Manhattan, with guest MC Kurtis Blow, on December 15. The following afternoon, State Ballet Theatre of Russia presents The Nutcracker in true classical fashion, direct from Moscow and replete with sugarplums, waltzing flowers and holiday magic.


Also on December 16, families are invited to join NJPAC’s Kwanzaa revelries. The much-recognized Forces of Nature Dance Theatre is on hand for two performances of powerful contemporary and West African dance, also incorporating elements of hip-hop, ballet and even martial arts.


Choreographer and Emmy Award winner Travis Wall (So You Think You Can Dance) arrives with his physically daring company, Shaping Sound, in a new production – titled After the Curtain – on January 28. The delicacy and whimsy of Asian dance are special characteristics of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, which celebrates the lunar Year of the Dog on February 10, then returns on March 24 for an inspired pairing of dance with live music by the sisters of the Ahn Trio on violin, piano and cello.


April 7 brings another Moscow troupe, the Russian National Ballet with the fairytale The Sleeping Beauty, again set to music by Tchaikovsky. Bold modern dance takes over on April 14 when New Jersey’s own Carolyn Dorfman Dance opens the Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance


The Chinese music and dance spectacle of Shen Yun, an annual audience favorite, is slated for six performances in Prudential Hall during late April and early May. Also eagerly anticipated every year is the Mother’s Day weekend booking of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (May 11-13), which surrounds its signature ballet Revelations in each program with new danceworks and gems from the repertoire.


Jersey (New) Moves! wraps up the dance season on June 15 with a showcase featuring original works by the State’s most promising choreographers.


As a director and choreographer who will continue to instruct aspiring young performers at NJPAC this season, Glover says he’s following the advice of a wise friend who told him that forwarding knowledge to the next generation “makes way for divinity.”


“The importance of art and self-expression is that phrase: It makes the world go ‘round,” Glover concludes. “We would be nothing without expression.”


June 9, 2017