SUDDENLY THERE CAME A TAPPING…

New York City

As the executive producer of the current tour of Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk, I found Diane Rafferty’s article on Savion Glover, “Tap Roots” [Jan. 13/20] offensive, inappropriate and filled with inaccuracies. The article displayed a significant lack of knowledge of the theater, the marketing and press process, and of Savion Glover and Noise/Funk.

Rafferty’s comment that Glover has “significantly reduced his dance time” by “giving over the important role of ‘Da Kid” is completely inaccurate. In this production of Noise/Funk, Glover recreates the role of ‘da Beat, which he originated in the Broadway production. ‘Da Beat is the lead role, the most extensive dance role, and is pivotal to the creation of the evening. Glover has never appeared in the role of ‘da Kid. That role was originated on Broadway by Dule Hill and is now expertly performed by Cartier Williams.

I am puzzled by Rafferty’s statement that Savion Glover “loathes performing.” Not only does Glover perform a strenuous role eight times a week in Noise/Funk, but in addition his time is filled with rehearsals, sound checks, master classes, lecture demonstrations and other publicity events–all of which he truly enjoys. In my sixteen years of working with Savion, I have witnessed pure joy when he is performing.

The lecture demonstration at which Rafferty interviewed Glover began on time at 4 pm and lasted for the allotted thirty minutes. It was given at the request of Providence’s Black Repertory Theatre in conjunction with the Providence Performing Arts Center, where Noise/Funk was appearing. It was specifically targeted to reach out to the community’s African-American audience, which would explain why Rafferty saw mostly African-Americans that day.

A lecture demonstration is not a capsule performance of the show. As with all events of this nature, we limit the time Glover spends with each press representative to facilitate everyone’s needs. If Rafferty was angry that she did not have adequate time with Glover, she should have taken issue with my office or the press department.

ALDO SCROFANI


New York City

As a tap artist who has shared the stage with Savion Glover, I thank Diane Rafferty for doing justice to Savion’s unbeatable genius, despite his many ambiguities. Rafferty wonders why Savion hides from the world. Tap dancers in this country are fed up with not being acknowledged for their contribution to jazz music and jazz dance, and with being forced into dance families they were not born into. (Savion might have been sincere in saying he knows nothing about Celtic music.) All his life, Savion seems to have been asked only one thing: to dance. Not talk. Not think (even though he does). Despite my love for Savion’s work, I too am upset that he does not show a greater effort to educate the media when he is the one benefiting from their attention. Retreating behind the dance and avoiding speaking is his choice. But one also has to remember that the issues to be spoken about are painful. We tap dancers are tired of being told tap is not legitimate, when those who came before us have shown us the greatest examples of authenticity, courage, invention and integrity.

People the world over relate deeply to tap. Any Thursday night in Harlem, you’ll bump into tappers from Japan, Israel, Russia, Argentina, Finland, Madagascar, France, etc. Maybe Savion has not fully understood yet the worldwide impact of tap as a language of freedom (misery exists beyond black America in many countries). But Savion is not the one to blame. Rather it’s the system that is trying to turn him (and others) into a product that only dances and should not see beyond his own world. In that regard, little has changed since Bill Bojangles’s time.

In the past ten years, the tap world has expanded and includes “talkative” artists from abroad with a different perspective–Guyanese tap dancer Tamango (creator of Urban Tap), Max Pollak from Austria (creator of Rumba Tap), myself from France (creator of BeauteeZ’n the Beat). We are often shocked to realize the lack of historical knowledge of tap in the United States, and by writing that Savion is “the greatest tap dancer that ever breathed,” Rafferty is forgetting the Nicholas Brothers, Jimmy Slyde, Peg Leg Bates and Baby Laurence.

ROXANE BUTTERFLY


RAFFERTY REPLIES

New York City

In the Broadway production my husband, my mother and I saw in 1996, Savion Glover danced the role of ‘Da Kid: Perhaps he was filling in for Dule Hill that day, and if so, I apologize for saying that Glover reduced his dance time in Noise/Funk. The lecture demonstration was scheduled for 3 pm. I learned via e-mail from my press contact on the day of the event that it would be delayed an hour. I reported what I saw and heard. Obviously, Aldo Scrofani did not read my piece, since I made it perfectly clear that, far from wanting more time to interview Glover, I cut the interview short myself for the reasons stated in my article.

Roxane Butterfly raises many fascinating issues. Some clarifications: What I addressed was Celtic dance influences on tap, not Celtic music. As I explained, Glover told me he doesn’t believe any such influences exist, despite his own book acknowledging them. (I hope he sees Gangs of New York, which features an African-American man, circa 1861, stomping out a jig to Irish fiddling. Director Martin Scorsese emphasizes several times the origins of tap.)

And I give more credit to the Nicholas Brothers than does Glover, who mocks these wonderful artists in his choreography for Noise/Funk. While fully recognizing the genius of the Nicholas Brothers and others, I stick to my opinion that Glover is the greatest tap dancer who ever breathed.

DIANE RAFFERTY


THE QUESTION OF ANSWER

Topeka, Kan.

In response to Katha Pollitt’s article concerning the January march on Washington [“Subject to Debate,” Feb. 10]: Pollitt is absolutely right. I was one of the organizers of three busloads of people from Kansas. We all have serious misgivings about ANSWER. But we chose to attend the rally not in support of ANSWER but to lend our support to an antiwar movement. On returning to Kansas some of us, myself included, have gone on radio talk shows to continue to get the message out. On the shows we’ve encountered the same opinions of ANSWER Pollitt mentions. Our response has been: “We didn’t go to Washington to listen to speeches. We went to demonstrate against the war on Iraq.”

I would like to add that at the January march the level of anger or frustration with the Administration was certainly greater than at the October march, which some of us had also attended. Also, the January march came as close to being an anti-Bush rally as it was an antiwar rally. There were many, many signs and protesters speaking on issues of jobs, healthcare, oil, the economy, etc. This has not been reported in the mainstream press.

JANET BRUNTON


New York City

Thanks to Katha Pollitt for mentioning the CPD’s statement, “We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and the US War on Iraq.” There are now more than 4,000 signers (to read or sign, go to www.cpdweb.org).

JOANNE LANDY
THOMAS HARRISON
JENNIFER SCARLOTT
Campaign for Peace and Democracy


YOU CAN HELP REFORM THE MEDIA!

Mad River Valley, Vt.

Kudos to The Nation for its continued focus on the politics of media reform and to Alterman, Nichols, McChesney, Chester, Miller and others who remind us that democracy requires a media system responsible to people’s diverse needs and stories instead of the corporate bottom line. Last October hundreds of educators, media producers, public health officials and activists met in Albuquerque to found a new continental coalition dedicated to promoting media literacy education, indy media production and systemic reform of our corporate-owned mainstream media. With a wry grin, we call ourselves ACME–the Action Coalition for Media Education, and we are democratically governed and funded entirely by individual members–media TNCs need not apply. Inspired by a mix of keynote speakers–among them McChesney, activist Makani Themba-Nixon, filmmaker Sut Jhally, activist Jean Kilbourne, journalist Peter Clayton, activist Carrie McLaren, media policy visionary Jeff Chester–we are already lobbying the FCC, developing independent media literacy curricula, tapping into the public health sector’s expertise re media-related issues, and building regional chapters. Come join us! www.acmecoalition.org.

ROB WILLIAMS


DUBYA & CO.’S PRIOR RESTRAINT

Oakland, Calif.

Thank you for Patricia Williams’s well-reasoned column of February 3. Although I ardently support war on Islamofascism, including its branch on the Tigris, she makes two good points: American inconsistency on allies’ and our own abuses is only going to cause vital players to drop out or cop out. This fight is too important to waste energy making martyrs of US citizens and compromising our judicial system in the process. Granting Jose Padilla habeas corpus is no guarantee he’ll even get bail.

While I don’t find fighting fire with smart bombs nearly as foolish as does Williams, only the imprudent would think any country, however advantaged, can simply outrun the need for goodwill from others. It would be far better for the United States to make the case that its own imperialism, however malfeasant, is pudding next to a day in the life of those who live on the adversary’s home turf. The mix of bellicosity and coyness Dubya & Co. are putting forward may blow up in their faces, possibly without blowing the living hell out of Saddam. The sad thing is, their lack of courage in this regard has everything to do with these deplorable moves to prior restraint.

DOUGLAS T. PRESLER


MO’ MONEY, NO MONEY, NO MONEY!

Nevada City, Calif.

In your February 3 “In Fact…,” a closing sentence reads: “Or should the [tax cut] money go to the wealthiest 1 percent to buy more stuff?” If only that were the case. Then this money might slightly benefit the economy. In reality, the wealthy simply reinvest it, where it tends to increase the value of stocks, again benefiting the wealthiest.

OTTO HAUEISEN