Tapestry Dance Co. tours China
Tap dance goes global when The Souls of Our Feet,Tapestry Dance Company's extravaganza, is getting a move on for a five-week tour. This time, all the way to Shanghai, China.
On Oct. 2, nine dancers, three musicians, a vocalist and a technical crew of four, along with Executive/Artistic Director Acia Gray, head to China for 15 performances of their acclaimed National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpiece production of The Souls of Our Feet - A Celebration of American Tap Dance. In addition to the tour dates, the company will represent Austin, TX at the China Shanghai International Arts Festival.
The Austin/China connection began with Gray's digital friendship with Chinese tap dancer Jiefang Chen. "He fell in love with Souls of Our Feet, and connected me to Zai Ping Wang of the Shanghai Singers Club. They put on big acts. Wang also fell for the show and then made the tour possible," says Gray, who will be traveling through a partnership between the Chinese Cultural Ministry and the Shanghai Singers Club.
"It's taken two years to get to this point." Thus far, the show has toured the US and Canada. Combining classic film clips with live dancing and music, the performance literally taps through the history of this uniquely American art form. "It's an entertaining and artistic package, and truly a historical and educational experience, although it's not set up that way, it can't help itself," quips Gray.
Newsflash: Austin is a national tap dance hub, largely due to Gray's extraordinary efforts and talent. All tap roads in Texas lead to Tapestry, the only full-time professional tap company in the nation.
Tapestry's Academy has also emerged as a leading training institution. Gray founded Tapestry in 1989 with Deirdre Strand as a full service dance troupe and education center. Gray trained as a percussionist first, and it shows in her musicality. In demand all over the world, Gray has learned from the greats, including Charles "Honi" Coles, Jimmy Slyde and Steve Condos. She has danced on the very same stage with legends such as Brenda Bufalino, Donald O’Connor, Fayard Nicholas, Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, and Dianne Walker. Gray describes her style as "bebop-based with a playful quality." Gray is also President of the Board of The International Tap Association, the only worldwide service organization for the art of tap dance.
Wait, there's more.
Gray, also a world renown teacher, wants to leave some tap tips behind. To that end, she will be developing a Chinese training system and syllabus of American tap dance for use in the university system. Meetings have been underway over the last two years, and the first stages of development will happen in conjunction with the tour. Gray realizes Tap is a diverse art form with numerous influences and she hopes to reflect that in the syllabus.
As for tap in China, Gray thinks it's going to be a great match. "Tap is our indigenous art form and a beautiful representation of our culture. It has some of that show biz nostalgia that has infiltrated to other cultures, including China. Most Chinese people, and some Americans, think that River Dance is tap dancing, which is fascinating. They may have heard of Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire, but not Coles or the Nicholas Brothers," says Gray. "Plus, I love to share the history and magic of tap with anyone."
Watch Tapestry hit the boards in Souls of Our Feet