ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

At NJPAC, Young Artists Get Direction from Tony Winner Savion Glover

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Performers know the rehearsal room is a sacred place for trying out new ideas, creative collaboration and above all, hard work. Over the last three of months at NJPAC, a group of 45 kids ages 6 to 18 have been getting a crash course in what it means to prepare for a show from one of the best: Tony-winning dancer/choreographer Savion Glover.

“When I step in the room, if you’re in the room, it’s like if you’re walking down the street carrying a violin,” said Glover. “I automatically assume that you know, and should know, certain things because you have the instrument in your hand.  It’s the same thing in the room.”

Glover knows what it’s like to be a young person learning from a legend.  He had his Broadway debut at age 10 and was mentored by the great Gregory Hines. Glover said he doesn’t look at the kids differently than he would, say, the cast of his recent Broadway show, “Shuffle Along”.

“There’s really no difference. I mean, the level of intensity might change because the people are at different levels, but as far as the intent, it’s still the same,” explained Glover.

And the young artists are really grateful for that.

“It’s kind of dope because it’s like he’s treating you like a professional,” said cast member Aaron Bowes. “I don’t look at myself as someone who’s a professional, but the way he treats you with that same — it’s a two-sided coin. He treats you with the same respect, but he’s hard on you in the same way he would be with people who have been doing this for years. So, I appreciate that.”

Bowes and a small handful of others are 18 and now in their first years at prestigious college programs as the show, called “BRiNG TiME BaCK @ NJPAC“, has its first and final performance this Sunday. For them, this learning experience and connection with Glover is precious as they move forward in their careers.

For 16-year-old Quashierra Muhammad, a thumbs up from someone like Glover can be the deciding factor to pursue a life in the arts.

“I was not in the best place this summer. I wasn’t,” said Muhammad. “I was going to give up on dance. I was going to give up on art because I was like, ‘Who am I?’ I started late…but he gave me a chance, and he believed in me, so if Savion Glover can believe in me, why can’t I believe in myself?”

It’s the first time NJPAC and Glover, a board member and the organization’s dance adviser, have paired up for this free program.

“You never know who might be a musician in the house, who might be an actor, who might be a director or a choreographer,” said Glover.

“Whether or not a kid takes those skills and takes those learnings and turns it into a career, is really immaterial because what they’re learning is creative thinking,” said NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber. “They’re learning collaboration and they’re advancing sophisticated thought processes.”

No matter what path these young artists take, they’ll always have the memory of spending a summer under the tutelage of the one and only Savion Glover.

Glover will premiere another piece at NJPAC next month — a one-man show about his career and mentors called “Chronology of a HooFer“.