Soul to Sole Festival

Tip Top Tap

Arthur Duncan
Arthur Duncan

When tap legend Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers passed away earlier this year, one more irreplaceable part of that art form's history slipped away. We may never see his like again, but we can take some comfort in the fact that this singular master of rhythm tap was able to share some of his intimate knowledge of the moves and skills of tap with younger generations of dancers through the Soul to Sole Festival, right here in our town. Nicholas came to Austin to serve as the annual confab's "Festival Legend" in 2003 and 2005, and his passing underscores how vital this event has been and is in preserving the history and tradition of this remarkable dance form.

This week, hoofers from around the country will congregate in Austin for the sixth Soul to Sole, organized by Tapestry Dance Company. Once again, they'll be spending their days in the studio studying with tap masters and their evenings enjoying archival dance films and – what else? – dancing for one another in performances that those of us who aren't dancers can enjoy, including a concert featuring festival artists, from the familiar feet of Tapestry Artistic Director Acia Gray and company dancers Tasha Lawson, Brenna Kuhn, and Jason Janas to those of acclaimed guests Lane Alexander, Ayodele Casel, Derick Grant, Barbara Phillips, and Jane Goldberg, who will be one of the 2006 Festival Legends. The other legend this year is Arthur Duncan, best remembered for his 18-year stint on The Lawrence Welk Show, where he was the first African-American to appear weekly in a network television series. A native of Pasadena, Calif., who gave up on a career in pharmacy to "see what this show business was all about," Duncan mastered a suavity of style and movement that had him touring clubs from London and Paris to Cairo and Beirut before being signed by the Champagne Maestro to be a series regular in 1964. He stayed with the show until it was canceled, but he kept dancing, performing in concert at both Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, on tour with Tommy Tune in My One and Only, on numerous television shows, and on film in the movie Tap, starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. An opportunity to see such a grand master of the form should not be missed.

The sixth Soul to Sole Festival takes place Wed.-Sun., May 31–June 4, at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, 2900 Bunny Run. The Participant's Showcase will be held Friday, June 2, 8:30pm, in the Helm Fine Arts Center, St. Stephen's School. The Soul to Sole Faculty Concert will be held Saturday, June 3, 8pm, at the Helm Fine Arts Center. For more information, call 773-7827 or visit

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