A set of stairs is not just a set of stairs in tap dancer Savion Glover’s show “STePz.”
The steps become a place to dance, as Glover taps his way through a dozen songs ranging from Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity” to a classical piece by Shostakovich to Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.”
Glover and four fellow hoofers will bring the show on Thursday to the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College in Rockville.
Glover said “STePz” is an homage to tap dancing masters and mentors whom he has known and performed with personally and also to tap dancing greats that have preceded them.
“It’s a tribute to all the men and women who have informed my approach to tap dance,” said Glover. “The show is to honor those who we’ve been blessed to know and learn from.”
Among them are dancers such as Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde and Steve Condos.
“They poured so much love into me that I have no choice at this point but to pay honor to them every time I touch the wood,” Glover said.
Performing with Glover on Thursday will be Marshall Davis Jr., Ayodele Casel, Sarah Savelli and Robyn Watson.
Glover said each dancer brings his or her own style to the show as the troupe performs solos, duets and ensemble pieces.
“My choreography still allows the dancers their individuality,” he said.
Featured in the show is a structure that allows performers to dance up and down stairs. Glover credits his wife with the idea, harking back to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in the 1935 film “The Little Colonel.”
Audiences can watch a tap dancer perform, but they can also just listen to the sound of his or her feet .
“If you just see the entertainment, you don’t hear what’s going on,” he said about the complex rhythms, both choreographed and improvised, in the show.
“I tell students you can either be the instrument or be the additional instrument,” he said.
In “Dexterity,” he follows the syncopated rhythms of Charlie Parker, but in “Miles Mode” by John Coltrane, he adds his own rhythms, as if running on a parallel track.
The troupe will also be dancing to music by other jazz and swing greats such as Miles Davis (“Flamenco Sketches”) and Benny Goodman (“Bugle Call Rag”).
“Tap gets sort of categorized to one type of music, like swing or jazz,” said Glover.
But also in the show are songs by Wonder and Prince (“When the Lights Go Down”).
There’s even a piece of classical music by Russian composer Shostakovich, part of a program Glover once choreographed and performed called “Classical Savion” with just himself and a string orchestra.
“We also did Mendelssohn and Vivaldi and others of that genre,” he said.
The show also pays tribute to the choreography of Gregory Hines, one of Glover’s mentors.
“Gregory Hines was a big part of my life,” said Glover, who performed in several movies with him, including the 1989 film “TAP,” also co-starring Sammy Davis Jr.
A Newark native, Glover started taking tap dance lessons in New York at age 7. He made his Broadway debut at age 12 in “The Tap Dance Kid,” followed by “Black and Blue.”
In 1996 at age 23, he won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk.”
In 1991 he played the younger Jelly in the Broadway musical, “Jelly’s Last Jam” with Gregory Hines as Jelly Roll Morton. Hines won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical in that show.
Glover also appeared in the 2000 Spike Lee film “Bamboozled” and in the 2001 TV movie “Bojangles” with Hines as Bill Robinson.
He has also appeared on “Sesame Street” and recently co-choreographed and performed the dances for Mumble the penguin in the animated film “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet Two.”
On the road for much of the year, Glover said he doesn’t mind the traveling.
“I love it, this is what I am,” he said.