WHO WE ARE
As a musician, soloist, choreographer and master teacher of the indigenous American art form of jazz tap dance, Ms. Gray has toured extensively across the U.S. and abroad as a tap dancer and in 1989 co-founded Tapestry Dance Company in Austin, TX with Deirdre Strand and currently serves as Producing Artistic Director & Artistic Director of The Soul to Sole Tap Festival. A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts/NYC, Ms. Gray has shared the stage with legends of the form including Donald O’Connor, Fayard Nicholas, Arthur Duncan, Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Sarah Petronio, Dianne Walker and many others in such productions as The Great Tap Reunion, Tap Do/Wop, Just Friends, Masters of Tap, Chicago on Tap and Women in Tap at UCLA. She was chosen to work with legend Charles ‘Honi’ Coles in America’s first creative residency for tap at The Colorado Dance Festival and again with Jimmy Slyde and was featured in the documentary A Class Act: The Magic of Honi Coles. She served on the Steering Committee of The National Tap Plan of The International Tap Association and served as its director from 2008-2018. She has also danced, choreographed and taught for numerous academic institutions and festivals around the world including courses at UT Austin in tap pedagogy. Her book The Souls of Your Feet – A Tap Dance Guide for Rhythm Explorers has been translated in the Czech Republic and China and debuted as an Amazon.com Bestseller in its category in 1998. Her numerous awards include the “Hoofer Award” by The New York City Tap Festival, nominated for a Princess Grace Award in the early 1990's and honored at the 2018 DanceUSA Conference among numerous tap festival honors. Ms. Gray has received numerous "Best Of" awards by the Critics Table in Austin and her work The Souls of Our Feet - A Celebration of American Tap Dance was chosen as an NEA American Masterpiece production and toured throughout the US, Canada, and China from 2009-2012. She can also be seen in the documentaries Honi Coles: The Class Act of Tap, Gotta Move - Women In Tap, Tap or Die, Thinking on Their Feet - Women of the Tap Renaissance and Passing it Forward produced by PBS. Ms. Gray is also proud to be a 2019 Austin Creative Alliance Honoree and a current member of the Austin Arts Commission. www.aciagray.com. www.aciagray.com.
Director of Education
Ms. Strand in the co-founder and Education Director of Tapestry Dance Company and started her professional career includes Fort Worth Ballet, James Clouser’s Space/Dance/Theatre and Austin on Tap. She started her degree work at Texas Christian University and has taught for the University of Houston where she holds her B.F.A. in Dance. In addition, she has studied with Manolo Agullo, Fernando Schaffenberg, Edward Villella, Arthur Mitchell, and Melissa Hayden among others. She has staged unique contemporary ballet and modern/jazz works for Tapestry Dance Company as well as the British Olympic Association, the New Orlean’s World’s Fair and numerous professional and training organizations worldwide. In addition to Tapestry Dance Company, Ms. Strand founded the Dance Department of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, and hosted numerous dance educational residencies that have included The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Jane Comfort & Company, Rennie Harris, Zen One, Zell Miller and numerous international artists. She was also the long-standing adjudicator for Festival de DanseEncore in Trois Riviere, Quebec, Canada and currently at the Brownsville, TX ISD.
Board of Directors
Libbi Toye Sampleton, President
Flight Attendant, Delta Airlines
Libbi was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA where she began her love of dance at an early age. As a student of the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, she became one of the founding members of the professional dance company Philadanco started by the legendary Joan Myers Brown that recently celebrated its 40th year and has gained worldwide acclaim. She met her husband, Lawrence (from Seguin, TX) and quickly learned the way of a Texan; Texans don't leave Texas! So, they settled in Austin almost 37 years ago, raising two children on the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School where Lawrence has been Director of Admission and Financial Aid for 29 years. Libbi has been a flight attendant for Delta Airlines for 38 years and has enjoyed a career of meeting people from all over the globe and from all walks of life and has traveled far and wide to experience many rich cultures and traditions. Libbi has been involved in the Tapestry family for many years. Her daughter Maya began taking classes there at a very early age and continued through her teenage years. She chose Tapestry over other studios in town because of the quality of teachers and their passion for dance, and for the warmth and love they shared with everyone who walked through the door. She served a short stint on the Board of Directors in the early 2000’s and is passionate about their mission to weave dance into life. The Tapestry academy and professional company does so much to enrich the lives of Austinites and beyond of all ages. She is committed to helping continue this legacy and excited about the future of Tapestry!
Sandy Stewart, VP/Treasurer
Founder Think Big! Program
Sandy specializes in independent businesses growing a brand while becoming a sustainable company; teaching step-by-step systems for growing revenue and cutting long-term expenses through initiatives toward net zero. Not all companies should be on the same path toward sustainability. It's not a one-size-fits-all process. For decades, Sandy has also helped companies excel in long-term growth and value by deploying the most appropriate sustainability path for their business. Her growing Think Big! community connects sustainably-minded businesses because together we can do so much more. Clients further their passion to be thriving green businesses that cultivate customers and increase product recognition. As well, Sandy co-founded and oversees a firm dedicated to training mid-sized companies to improve their company's value and growth, to understand their value multiplier and to develop tools & methodologies for simplifying complex business concepts. Sandy's passion for tap has grown into a passion for Tapestry. She joined the board in the fall of 2014 and was the organization's President from 2015 to 2020.
Natalie Rodgers, Secretary & Marketing Committee Chair
Co-Founder & DEI Consultant, The Acacia Company
Natalie was raised right here in Austin, TX and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Advertising & Graphic Design. She has a great passion for rhythm and dance – her greatest love is Latin social dance. She dances Cuban Style Salsa, On 1 Salsa, Bachata, and a variety of other Latin dance styles. She is currently a Salsa and Bachata instructor for Tapestry. You’ll likely see her around town teaching workshops and attending dance socials. She got her start while working in Nicaragua for one year for the global leadership non-profit, AIESEC and hasn’t stopped dancing since. She also hasn’t stopped working with AIESEC. She currently serves on the local Board of Advisors for the Austin chapter and is the local alumni coordinator as well. In her professional career, Natalie supports nonprofits and businesses develop and implement sustainable Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategies that create lasting impact and more equitable workplaces. In all that she does, helping people learn and grow and realize their potential remains at the core. She is proud to serve the Tapestry community and support its great mission.
Deirdre Strand, Co-Founder & Education Committee Chair
Founder & Retired Director of Dance, St. Stephen's Episcopal School
Ms. Strand is the co-founder and Education Director of Tapestry Dance Company and started her professional career includes Fort Worth Ballet, James Clouser’s Space/Dance/Theatre and Austin on Tap. She started her degree work at Texas Christian University and has taught for the University of Houston where she holds her B.F.A. in Dance. In addition, she has studied with Manolo Agullo, Fernando Schaffenberg, Edward Villella, Arthur Mitchell, and Melissa Hayden among others. She has staged unique contemporary ballet and modern/jazz works for Tapestry Dance Company as well as the British Olympic Association, the New Orlean’s World’s Fair and numerous professional and training organizations worldwide. In addition to Tapestry Dance Company, Ms. Strand heads the Dance Department of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, and hosts numerous dance educational residencies that have included The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Jane Comfort & Company, Rennie Harris, Zen One, Zell Miller and numerous international artists. She was also the long-standing adjudicator for Festival de DanseEncore in Trois Riviere, Quebec, Canada and currently for the Brownsville ISD Dance Program.
Ashley Davis, Volunteer Chair
Business Development Advisor, Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance
Ashley, a native Houstonian, grew up studying multiform dance, including Classical Spanish and Flamenco, at the Rodriguez Dance Academy. At a young age, she developed a love and passion for tap and flamenco and has been fortunate to study with legends in both genres throughout the course of her life. Ashley attended The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and History. During her time at UT, she continued her multiform dance education at Tapestry and experienced first-hand the artistry and community impact that Tapestry had on Austin. After 6 years in Austin, Ashley made a move to Madrid, Spain to study Flamenco at the world-renowned Amor de Dios. After 1.5 years of study, she returned to Texas where she began teaching multiform dance and performing again with Rodriguez Dance Company, Marc Aurelio, and later, Pilar Andujar. Simultaneously, Ashley continued her academic pursuits, earning an MBA from the University of Houston, and beginning her career with Lloyd’s Register, a globally recognized certification body. There, Ashley refined her experience in strategic business development and specialized client management for companies looking to expand their performance and reduce risk through management system certification. She has spent the last 13 years developing deep, collaborative relationships with a commitment to continual improvement and passion for customer experience. When Ashley is not talking about certification or spending time with her husband and two children, she loves taking dance classes. Ashley is proud to have been part of the Tapestry family since her childhood and is a firm believer in Tapestry’s mission and place within the collective artistic community. She is thrilled to bring this passion and her love of Tapestry to the Board and is excited to contribute to the continued success of this amazing dance company.
Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, Production Committee Chair
Musician & Music Producer
Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff lives in Austin, TX and sings, plays tenor sax and harmonica, writes songs, and does arrangements for The Texas Horns. Born in Northampton, MA, Kaz was raised on the Blues in Chicago, where he heard and played with stars like Magic Sam, Howlin Wolf, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Bob Margolin, Little Walter, and Big Walter Horton. Since 1981, Kaz has been a big part of the Austin, TX music scene playing with a cavalcade of Blues, Jazz, and Western Swing stars, as a member of the famed Antone’s House Band in the 1980’s; as a member of Al Dressen’s Super Swing Review since 1985, and currently as the leader of The Texas Horns. Kaz recently retired from his teaching post at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin. He taught Music Theory, American music history, and directed the jazz band program for 25 years. Kaz was a founding member and first president of the Austin Blues Society, and he has been on the Tapestry Dance board of directors for several years. As a horn player, arranger, producer and band leader, Kaz has recorded on over 250 CD’s. Kaz won a Grammy Award for his work on Delbert McClinton’s 1989 CD Live From Austin TX. His contribution to Anson Funderburgh’s 1986 CD Sins won him several awards including a Handy Award (now the Blues Music Award). His latest production project, Whitney Shay’s Stand Up on Ruf Records, reached #1 on the Roots Blues Music Chart in March of 2020. Kaz has played and recorded with Marcia Ball, Jimmie Vaughan, Earl King, Anson Funderburgh, Al Dressen, Johnny Nicholas, John Nemeth, Cornell Dupree, Pine Top Perkins, Robert Ward, and dozens of other blues and jazz greats. The Texas Horns, led by Kaz, have released two critically acclaimed CDs. The most recent, Get Here Quick on Severn Records, was released in 2019. The Horns continue to record with a who’s who of International blues artists.