In the time I spoke with Marshall L Davis Jr. I became more and more captivated with him. Although I am nowhere near the level of Marshall or his touring companion, Savion Glover, I have been tapping since a young age. I was inspired by Marshall's down-to-earth outlook on life and his ingenuity in regards to the tap world.
Marshall is by all means a superstar of the tap world. He's performed in Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk on Broadway with Savion Glover and later toured with him all around the world. Have you seen Happy Feet 2? Then you've seen Marshall. The filmmakers used motion capture technology to transfer his moves to the animated characters. But despite a resume like that, Marshall claims to spend his Friday nights listening to live music or catching a movie - as he calls it, "normal stuff." He elaborates, "I like to play pool, I’m not the best but I am not the worst.”
Although he's amassed an impressive collection of awards, Marshall says he is most proud of the family he has surrounding him. “I am very big on family, not just related biologically but friends become brothers, sisters, ants, uncles. Family is an all encompassing: friends and biological family. I am not the type of person to let people in easy so my close friends, my relationship with Condos and his wife and my relationship with biological family are important."
I ask Marshall to name one person he'd like to have dinner with, he replies, “One of my great grandparents. I met them when I was younger but now I’m at the age were I want to ask questions about their lives. I really like taking to older people and hearing their stories…to learn the good times and the bad times.”
Next question I ask, if you had a super power, what would it be? "To fly, with travelling and dealing with airports it would be way nicer to just be able to fly or even teleport…do what you have to do and than teleport to the next city." When you perform all around the world, I suppose you spend a lot of time in airports.
Favorite type of music? He replies, “I am a hoofer. I look at myself as the musician…I studied music and I feel like I can 'dance to any old beat' as my old dance teacher used to say.”
Before signing off, I ask Marshall if he had any advice for aspiring tap dancers. His answer- “Be sincere about the art form. If you’re trying to tap dance because you think it’s going to make you famous and rich maybe it’s not for you.”
He continues, "Also, study, those who came before you and see those who are not dancing anymore. Other dancers, myself included, other than maybe Savion [Glover], he has a good understanding. The rest of us are still trying to figure it out. Remember, taps are on our shoes for a reason and you need to pay attention to what is being said rather than being seen. So much of tap has to do with the sound. Communication is an important part in everyone’s life; we deal with it in so many ways. If you know the sound you can do more with exploration…when you don’t understand sound has no meaning. When it does have meaning, that’s what we call translation. It’s the same with tap dancing…the visual is very much a part of it but the sound is first that is primary."
The time spent speaking with Marshall left me with a newfound appreciation for tap dancing. It's meant to be more than noise. Tap is more than a sound. It is a way for dancers to communicate and express themselves through a unique art form. The addition of a tap dancer to Spring Series will allow ballet-goers to experience a different form of dance, one they may not be too familiar with. I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to speak with Marshall L Davis Jr. and I look forward to seeing him take the stage in Simply Sammy. My talk with him left me with a newfound appreciation for tap and the hoofers who have paved the way before me.