Tapestry Dance chose to revive “Austintatious,” its 2002 paean to our city’s personality, for several auspicious reasons.
This collection of short Austin-centric pieces reminds us that, prior to a decade or so ago, Tapestry was a self-consciously multiform company. True, a troupe that put sharp emphasis on the syllable “tap,” but one ambitious about delving into modern, postmodern, social-dance and world-dance vocabularies.
Also, “Austintatious, Too” — as the revival is dubbed — launches Tapestry’s 30th anniversary season and, in doing so, demonstrates that its dancing talent as well as its benevolent stage sensibilities have survived three decades intact.
In the larger scheme of things, “Austintatious, Too” manifests our city’s — and this company’s — evolution.
For instance, the first half of the program is devoted to Austin’s vaunted nightlife, with visits to Antone’s, the Broken Spoke, the Warehouse District and East Sixth Street, all set to Austin-penned tunes. This gives artistic director Acia Gray and other dance-makers the opportunity to toy with different types of social dancing, but also to pick up the rhythms of the street at different hours. (Not often given over to novelty prop numbers, Tapestry nevertheless does delightful things with empty beer cans.)
Those Austin nightlife scenes have changed, however, since 2002. Some of the buildings and people are the same, true, but the vibe on the street feels different, perhaps not as carefree as witnessed in “Crashin’ the Party” or “Last Call.” Also, much of the Warehouse District is gone, or has changed and the revelers have moved on.
Tapestry has changed, too. Gray no longer joins every ensemble number. She adroitly picks and chooses moments to show off her unparalleled stage charisma and stylish moves.
Additionally, the other five dancers in the troupe were presumably recruited for their tap chops, since Tapestry is all about tap these days. Oh, they are perfectly capable of executing the other dance genres reanimated from the 2002 original, but when they tap, they take us to a whole other country of awestruck entertainment.
The second half of the show at the Rollins Theatre is more varied, conceptual and far-ranging, though the scenes are still inspired by Austin. It starts with a refined piece of playfulness, “In the Back of the Chronicle,” and ends with Dee McCandless’ imaginative and complex take on nature in “Waterworks: Agua Dulce.”
We must welcome two new company members: Claire Sheek, who comes to Austin from the Rocky Mountains and whose pristine lines and beaming sense of good will are well matched to the Tapestry brand, and Jonah Ende, an Australian whose high-stepping, exacting tap style stands out even on first encounter.
Not that Ende was showing off. Or rather, Ende wasn’t the only one showing off when called out of the ensemble. Jesse Berry, for instance, proved a worthy inheritor of former member Jason Janas’ wild-man routines in this show, while Denis Morita and Alisa Guardiola impressed, as they always do, at every turn on stage.
What do we do with this? We give thanks that Tapestry, the only full-time rhythm troupe of its type in the world, has made it to 30 in top shape. We also marvel at Gray, who along with Deborah Hay, Sally Jacques, Allison Orr and other ostentatious Austin women have helped lead the way in establishing the city’s singular dance reputation.