Fifteen years in the making, Tapestry Dance Company’s upcoming Soul to Sole Festival features names like Nicholas Young, Dotmeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and Brenda Bufalino. A festival, master class, and concert all in one, Soul to Sole Festival is a dance-intensive weekend not to be missed. Tapestry’s own Acia Gray reflects on the festival, and how her incredible dance history and passion have brought her here.
This year’s 15th Annual Soul to Sole Festival sparks many incredible memories for me as a tap dancer. Not only is the first tap dancer I ever witnessed a part of this year’s festival, but also one of my incredible mentors. These two artists have no idea how much they have influenced me, not only as a percussive artist but as a person.
I can flash back to sitting in front of the TV as a kid in the 1960’s watching the incredible Dr. Arthur Duncan. I was a young drummer already in my Dad’s band and Arthur mesmerized me with his showbiz style and incredible rhythms! What a wonderful legacy he was holding as the only African American hoofer with a full-time position in our three channel television world. I can’t believe I have been able to work with this inspirational artist on tour with Tapestry’s NEA American Masterpiece production of “The Souls of Our Feet – A Celebration of American Tap Dance” but I can truly call him family. We have spent many a post-show night drinking vodka & cranberry juice and discussing the business, the artistry and the love of rhythm. I’m so excited to be producing him once again at this year’s festival!
Many years after those champaign bubble broadcasts with Arthur, I had the privilege of being chosen of the 1st Creative Residency for Tap Dance at the Colorado Dance Festival in 1989 with the beloved Charles “Honi” Coles and his partner & protege Brenda Bufalino. I had already been a working tap dancer with Austin On Tap which still exists as the busiest touring tap dance company to date and was thrilled to be chosen among 15 artists worldwide for this intensive 2 week training program. Not only did Honi change my ears and eyes to tap dance but Brenda showed me the power and legacy that women in tap can hold (as well as some of my fellow intensive members: Lynn Dally and Camden Richman from The Jazz Tap Ensemble). A no nonsense artist, teacher and composer Brenda truly changed my outlook on the possibilities for myself as a soloist, choreographer and soon to be Artistic Director. In fact, at a restaurant in Boulder, CO during the second week, Tapestry was born with my co-founder Deirdre Strand. A new and enlightened opportunity for both of us – and here we are 26 years later bringing Brenda back to Tapestry for this year’s festival.
I was honored also to have Brenda’s work “All Blues” restaged as part of “The Souls of Our Feet” in tribute to her company The American Tap Dance Orchestra. One of the highlights of my career was when she presented me with her red blazer that she wore in this piece originally. Not only were those big shoes to fill but to honor her work and company was life changing for me and Tapestry Dance Company.
I also lovingly remember making it to the stage in NYC in a trio with Brenda, Sarah Petronio (another of my incredible mentors) and myself.
Had I arrived? Wow…still asking that one.
Tapestry Dance Company’s 15th Annual Soul to Sole Festival is June 10-14 at the Long Center. Tickets can be purchased here.