Tapestry Dance Company
The Souls of Our Feet: A Celebration of American Tap Dance
proved a feast for the ears and eyes. Under the direction of Acia Gray, this Austin-based company fused showmanship, solid technique, and an understanding of their roots into a jam-packed tap extravaganza.
Combining tap dance, live music, and vintage film clips, the show featured recreations from the past as well as more recent pieces performed in the style of tap masters Charles “Honi” Coles, James “Buster” Brown, The Nicholas Brothers, and Sarah Petronio. As part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ “American Masterpieces: Dance” tour, the show had an educational mission, but it never fell into a History of Tap lesson. Souls felt more like a nightclub act, complete with a slick three-piece band, extravagant lighting, and a relentless fog machine. The audience surely left knowing more about tap than when they came in, but was thoroughly entertained in the process.
The first half paired live dancing with vintage film footage from such greats as Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson (Littlest Rebel), Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (Broadway Melody of 1940), and Coles and Cholly Atkins (Takin’ a Chance on Love). Performers entered mid-way into the film clip and finished the dance as the film faded away. Little attempt was made (thankfully) to have the dancers “be” these classic stars. Instead, they assumed the style of the greats and offered their own interpretation. Fluid transitions between film and live performance made for a seamlessly smooth evening. This was a rare opportunity to see these routines in three dimensions and revisit some dance film gems.
The second half let each dancer shine and demonstrate their individual tap personalities. The troupe showed off strong ensemble work during a recreation of the famous Vaudeville chair dance from The Copasetics. Brenna Kuhn and Brittany Parks charmed in their precise but luxuriously slow tapping to Takin’ a Chance on Love (choreography by Coles and Atkins). Jason Janas’ athletic improvisation moved the program forward into what’s happening on today’s stages. Like other next generation tappers, Janas has a style all his own, kind of macho, bordering on awkward, but thrilling nonetheless.
The Eddy Hobizal Trio, renamed The Souls of Our Feet Trio for the show, added to the snazzy atmosphere. Gray wrapped up the show with a cool and restrained improvisation of her own, dancing as if she held secrets in her feet. She just might.