Troupe shares the power of movement
Tapestry Dance Company makes every effort to never turn away a student who wants to dance, according to co-founders Acia Gray and Deirdre Strand.
“Dance should not be restricted to those that have perfect turnout [a move in ballet] or can tap dance a mile a minute; it should be available to everybody,” said Gray, who serves as the nonprofit’s producing artistic director.
TDC is home to the only salaried professional tap dance company in North America, according to Executive Director Brenna Kuhn. The group is preparing for its upcoming production, “Time,” which incorporates tap-dancing, vocals and rhythmic responses.
“They like to push the boundaries of just traditional dance by adding in singing,” Kuhn said.
The nonprofit organization also includes the TDC Academy, which offers classes in tap, ballet, jazz, contemporary and other styles. Competitions are not part of the curriculum, said Strand, the director of education.
“It’s not about a trophy at the end of the day,” Strand said.
Longtime professional dancers Strand and Gray were part of the tap-dancing company Austin On Tap in 1989 when they decided to start a dance group that would combine their strengths—Strand’s modern ballet and jazz with Gray’s tap-dancing. They attended the Colorado Dance Festival with AOT in 1989.
“Somebody found out we were going to be doing this, and the director actually called and asked me to resign,” Gray said. “I was mad at the time, but also really excited and happy.”
Gray and Strand left AOT and launched TDC together in 1989.
The nonprofit, which is housed in a 12,000-square-foot building in Southwest Austin, celebrates its 25-year anniversary with the 2013–14 season that is scheduled to start in September.
Gray said one of her goals looking forward is to get the professional company back on tour. TDC stopped touring in 2012 when Gray took medical leave because of her ulcerative colitis.
“I had a health crisis,” she said, noting it was due to stress. “Luckily I’m past that, and I’m gaining some strength back—hopefully in a smarter way.”
The nonprofit’s greatest struggle, however, has been surviving the economic downturn, Gray said. TDC rents its existing location. It has had a few locations throughout the years and moved to Southwest Austin about six years ago when its downtown location was shuttered to be replaced by condos, Kuhn said.
TDC is funded by donations, grants, government funds and revenue including ticket sales. Weekly one-hour dance classes for children start at $60 per month. Adults can take “drop-in classes” at $16 per class or buy a $60 class card good for four one-hour classes during a five-week period, Kuhn said.
“If you want to take a class, whether it’s ballet or Bollywood, we have something for you,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn teaches tap-dancing and yoga and said she loves helping students learn new steps.
“I see that transformation in the student, whether they’re 9 years old or 90 years old,” she said, noting she has worked for TDC for 10 years.
Some people sign up for classes because they love the art, others do so for the exercise, and Kuhn said she’s had one student come in because she was having a bad day and needed a pick-me-up.
“We always joke that you can’t be sad while tap-dancing,” Kuhn said. “That’s the power of dance.”
What makes up the company?
Tapestry Dance Company includes:
- A professional dance company of six principal dancers and one apprentice
- A pre-apprentice program for ages 12 to 18 called VIR (Visions In Rhythm)
- The adult student company Tapestry, Too
- An academy serving 293 children and more than 900 adults and offering scholarships
- A community outreach program through which it educates 20,000 Central Texas students per year and offers scholarships
Performances and classes
- April 12–14, “Time”—TDC Professional Company at the Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
- April 28, “Over, Under, Around and Through” Tapestry, Too at the Carver Cultural Center
- May 4–5, “Fly”—VIR at the Carver Cultural Center
- May 19, “Night Circus”—TDC Academy end of year demonstration at the Texas School for the Deaf
TDC adds new classes to offerings
- Contemporary ballet—Tuesday at 4 p.m. for children and adults
- Classical stretch class—Thursday at noon for adults
- Advanced contemporary—Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. for experienced adults
2302 Western Trails Blvd., 512-474-9846, www.tapestry.org