Tapestry Dance Company: Keeping Austin Weird and Wonderful

Tapestry Dance Company is a professional, non-profit company that looks to develop a foundation in multi-form dance performance and education. 15 years old, the company has premiered 165 original works and toured nearly half the country. Read on to learn of Tapestry founder Acia Gray‘s incredible journey, and how she- and Tapestry- came to call the Long Center home.

When you think of a professional tap dancer, most people think of musical theatre and New York.  Ironically, the only full-time professional tap dance repertory company in North America is right here in Austin, TX and it has little to do with traditional musical theatre  My home – the home of some of the most creative and musical souls in the world and home to our Tapestry Dance Company.

Tap dance actually came late in my creative life.  My first paid job in the mid 70’s was with Austin’s Melodrama Theatre (located at the time in the Village Shopping Center) as a show drummer.  I had started playing drums at an early age and spent many a weekend playing “gigs” with my Dad in and around Houston.  It wasn’t until I attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC that dance entered my life.  With that, modern dance, jazz, improv and tap dance were part of my training as an actor.  Three years later, on a two week vacation to Austin, I noticed an audition for a tap dance company – an anomaly at the time. My curiosity was peaked and I was chosen for “Austin On Tap,” the busiest touring tap dance company to date.  The company toured throughout the US and it changed my life and my direction into dance.

Acia from Tapestry Dance Company - Long Center for the Performing Arts

It wasn’t until I was chosen as one of 15 dancers from around the world for the First Creative Residency for Tap Dance at The Colorado Dance Festival in 1989 that I realized tap dance was truly my creative voice.  Working directly with legends Charles “Honi” Coles, James “Buster” Brown, Eddie Brown, Steve Condos, and contemporary pioneers such as Brenda Bufalino and Sarah Petronio, I reconnected to my drummer and the rhythm in my soul.

Since that life changing event when Tapestry Dance Company was born, I have been honored by the NYC Tap Festival / American Tap Dance Foundation with the “Hoofer Award” among many others. I published “The Souls of Your Feet – A Guidebook for Rhythm Explorers” – winning “Best in Category” by Amazon.com which has since been translated in China and The Czech Republic and have produced over 35 original full length productions including “The Souls of Our Feet – A Celebration of American Tap Dance” that was selected by The National Endowment for the Arts as an American Masterpiece Production touring the US, Canada and China.  Just recently I was chosen as a Passionary for the incredible movement #besomebody.

I’ve seen Austin change …I’ve witnessed some of our personality get torn down for condos – the great legacy venues, restaurants and festivals.  We need to support the organizations that remember and vibrate in the rhythm that made Austin the place everyone wants to live!  We remember.  Keep Austin Weird!  What’s more weird than a world renowned tap dance company based right here? Remember Tapestry concerts with the great Tina Marsh and The Creative Opportunity Orchestra, Martin Banks, Jazz PR, Austin Ballet Theatre, Suzanna Sharp & The Samba Police!

I am proud to have been selected as a premiere member of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2002, and have been honored to win numerous Austin Critic’s Table Awards for Best Choreography, Best Dance Company (Tapestry), Best Ensemble and Best Dance Company.  It’s the spirit and soul of Austin that has made that possible. Tapestry Dance Company, founded by Deirdre Strand and myself in 1989, has been wonderfully supported by The City of Austin Cultural Contracts since 1990.  A strong foundation is the binding thread enabling us to be a creative home to some of the world’s best tap dancers.

And now, this season we are welcoming five new dancers from around the country to join us in our beautiful city!  Look forward to our upcoming premiere “Soul/Sole Connections” on Halloween weekend, our popular annual “Of Mice & Music – A Jazz Nutcracker” with live music including “Austin’s Best Drummer” Masumi Jones this December, and once again welcoming other homegrown Austin artists to our reprise of “Espirt!” with Anu Naimpally, Zein Al-Jundi, The Irish Dance Company, Love of China and Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklorico!

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