Changes in artistic direction for two local companies.
Dance Company Changes Afoot
In what is basically another chapter in this column's ongoing "Arts Personnel Watch," big changes in artistic directorship are coming down at two local dance companies this week. The most intensely anticipated of those is unfortunately the one about which I have the least information at press time. This much I can tell you: Ballet Austin has chosen its new permanent artistic director and is ready to make its announcement. Alas, the press conference at which BA Board President Cliff Ernst and Board Chair/Artistic Director Search Committee Chair Jare Smith will reveal their selection to the public won't take place until after this edition is on the streets. That'll be at 10am on Thursday, February 17, at the old Firehouse, 3002 Guadalupe. While the announcement will be yesterday's news by the time the follow-up to this column is printed, you can expect a report here anyway. And if you don't have your own sources at the ballet and can't wait for the daily to give you the news, call me at the Chronicle -- 454-5766 -- or drop me an e-mail -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- and I'll break the story to you personally.
The other change might be categorized as unexpected, although it brings with it a whiff of déjà vu. Deirdre Strand, the choreographer who co-founded Tapestry Dance Company with Acia Gray and has shared the artistic direction of the company with Gray for almost the entirety of its 10-year existence, is resigning her leadership role with the company at the end of the current season. Gray will continue on as Tapestry's sole artistic director. If that sounds a little familiar, it may be because two years ago, Strand took a leave of absence from Tapestry, and Gray had to produce and choreograph the company's second season show by herself, a challenge that was covered in a Chronicle cover story ("In the Middle of It," Feb. 20, 1998). At that time, Strand was taking a temporary break to deal with health issues. As it happened, she recovered from them quickly enough to climb back on board for Tapestry's ninth season and has continued through this one. For those who know about Strand's earlier departure, this talk of a permanent leavetaking may spark anxieties of further health complications for the artist. But Gray is quick to lay those fears to rest. The culprit this time is simply Strand's other job: Director of dance at St. Stephen's Episcopal School. The program she directs has become so successful of late that Strand has a full plate with it alone. And with it being the job that, as Gray says, pays the bills, Strand has an added incentive to make sure it gets her full attention. So after much consideration, she has made the very difficult decision to leave Tapestry so she may devote more time to St. Stephen's. This does not mean that Strand is severing all ties with the company she co-founded or that her fans will never again be able to enjoy her spirit-filled, atmospheric choreography on a Tapestry bill. Gray is confident that Strand's dances will remain an integral part of the Tapestry blend of contemporary dance. Still, it makes at least this Tapestry fan all the more eager to see The Best of Tapestry, Too!, the company's second 10th-anniversary concert this weekend, to savor this choreographer's evocative and touching contributions to the form and to our community over the last decade. She is a treasure well-deserving of our thanks, our applause, and our good wishes. For Tapestry ticket info, call 472-5470.