Star Tribune | STAGE & ARTS | NOVEMBER 22, 2015 — 9:15PM
TU Dance troupe taut with an urban edge
REVIEW: World premiere “Vibrations” is an ode to life in the modern city.
By CAROLINE PALMER Special to the Star Tribune
Shades of light and darkness define TU Dance’s fall season, which opened Friday night at the O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. The troupe, led by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, continues its record of delivering programs filled with variety, innovation and social commentary.
The world premiere “Vibrations, Sightglass San Francisco” is an ode to city living with sections titled “Morning Coffee,” “Power Lunch” and “Happy Hour.” But choreographer Uri Sands adds a distinct 21st-century twist to this suite set to sparkling Charles Mingus jazz compositions. His dancers are constantly in motion, their heads bobbing and twitching, their bodies unsettled and yearning for the digital pulse as they search for rhythmic connections.
Of note is a trio for Darwin Black, Randall Riley and Alexis Staley, all buttoned up and ready to conquer the financial district. They stomp to the flamenco-inspired beats, agitated as bulls locked up in a pen. All three are stylish and cool yet itching to seal a deal. But Sands directs the talents of these exquisite dancers away from the obvious power play, directing them into soaring leaps and long-limbed looseness. They have a higher purpose.
Italo-Canadian dancer/choreographer Gioconda Barbuto, in collaboration with the dancers, created the world premiere “Footprint” for TU through a 2015 McKnight International Artist Fellowship. The piece offers a stark and poignant contrast in mood to Sands’ “Vibrations” — edgy and industrial, propelled by Gabriel Prokofiev’s taut score.
Barbuto, whose bio includes an early stint with Minnesota Dance Theatre before joining Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and Nederlands Dans Theater III, is aggressive with her dance-making in the best possible way. The TU company members embrace her fearlessness without hesitation.
The program closes with Sands’ “January: Part I” and “January: Part II” (2012). Whether or not he intended the reference, this work could be an update of “The Rite of Spring.” The 1913 work by Ballets Russes, set to Igor Stravinsky’s raging score, spoke to the end of innocence and the feral ferocity of ritual.
Sands conjures an equally bleak picture — his dancers are hunched and huddled in packs, propelled by the metallic waves of Brian McBride and Amon Tobin’s music. They whirl like dervishes and yet are also broken people navigating a dystopian world. Art should unsettle and reflect its troubled times. “The Rite of Spring” certainly did. Sands understands this, too.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance writer.