Support TU Dance During the Give-At-Home-MN Campaign

Greetings from TU Dance!

We hope you and your loved ones are well. 

TU Dance, like most nonprofits, businesses, and individuals has been impacted by the effects of the current situation. Since the beginning, our concern and response has been filled with compassion and care. We continue to fulfill our mission by working to:

  • Ensure everyone remains safe
  • Ensure our TU Dance Center students continue to dance and be inspired
  • Ensure our Staff, Dancers, Teaching Artists, Accompanists, and others who depend on TU Dance are considered in our decision making
  • Ensure we continue to listen to the needs of our community 

As we deal with the ever changing situation, some decisions have not been easy. We were saddened that the company Spring Season at The Cowles Center, which included four world premieres, had to be cancelled due to gathering restrictions. Several TU Dance Experiences –our field trip program to TU Dance Center– were cancelled, as well as the TU Dance Center Spring Student Showcase, which was scheduled for June 13. All of these cancellations have a direct impact on our students, artists, patrons, and the community at large.

The School at TU Dance Center programs were reimagined to an online platform. We were amazed by the courage, passion, and creativity of our staff, teaching artists, and accompanists. They dedicated many hours to learn, reinvent, and adapt to this new reality. Since the classes were transferred to the virtual world, we are proud that:

  • Our Pre-Professional and Children & Teen programs’ previous enrollment has remained consistent, while new students have been joining our programs. Currently 158 students are taking classes online!
  • 24 teachers and 11 accompanists continue to be employed. 
  • The financial aid application process has been reopened and we have allocated additional funds beyond what was originally budgeted to our TU Dance Access Fund to aid families affected by the current circumstances.
  • We reduced the tuition of new adult and Dancing Together workshops by 33%.
  • We offered, in collaboration with teaching artist DejaJoelle, Quarantine Love: Self-Care During a Pandemic, a workshop specially created in response to the current situation.
  • We are offering three free weekly online classes with an average participation of 30 local, national, and international students.

The loss of revenue from unrealized performance ticket sales, educational programming cancellations, reduced tuition fees, hosting open community classes at no charge and increased financial aid, among other things, has created stress on TU Dance’s finances. Meanwhile, our commitment to the community has not ceased. We have taken every effort to support our artists during this difficult time. With imagination, we’ve continued to fulfill our mission and remain steadfast with the connective power of dance. 

From May 1- 8, TU Dance joins the GiveMN’s #GiveAtHomeMN campaign. We invite you to participate in building this new chapter of our story. Your contribution to TU Dance willhelp us maintain and create new and needed programming while we support all of those who make TU Dance’s mission a reality. Please consider making a donation to TU Dance by visiting: www.givemn.org/organization/TU-Dance

Together we will get through this!

All of us at TU Dance

Virtual open classes at TU Dance Center

As we take this moment of reflection along with the rest of the world and determine how we can best offer our TU Dance Center programming during this time of physical distancing, it is important to express our great desire to continue moving with you all and to stay connected through the artform of dance.

We would like to offer the following virtual classes with TU Dance Center teaching artists from now until June 12, 2020:

  • Tuesdays, 10:00-11:00am: Intermediate/Advanced Ballet with Penny Freeh and Abdo Sayegh, Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/322489956
  • Wednesdays, 10:00-11:00am: GYROKINESIS® Method with Wendy Anderson (please have an armless chair/stool and yoga mat/blanket readily available) Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/254720746
  • Fridays, 10:00-11:00am: Afro-Contemporary with Alanna Morris- Van Tassel, Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/746489791

For updated open class schedule visit http://www.tudance.org/openschedule/

If you would like to donate for participating in these offerings or simply make a gift to the organization, please click here. Your support of TU Dance will ensure that we continue to be able to offer these classes.

We look forward to seeing you in our classes!

Photo: (from left to right) Wendy Anderson, Penelope Freeh, Alanna Morris-Van Tassel and Abdo Sayegh

Open Classes Cancelled (March 16-29)

As we continue to stay updated on the unfolding situation with COVID-19, we have decided to cancel all morning and afternoon open classes for the next 2 weeks. (March 16-29)

These decisions are not easy and our intention is to keep the TU Dance community (as well as the community at large) as healthy as possible.

We will stay in touch with updates about The School at TU Dance Center Programming.

Review: TU Dance presents strong works new to Minneapolis

TU Dance’s fall concert offered fluid works with themes of light, pain, strength and renewal. 

By Sheila Regan Special to the Star Tribune OCTOBER 21, 2019 — 6:04PM

TU Dance’s performance at the O’Shaughnessy this past weekend wasn’t quite as flashy as the company’s collaboration with Bon Iver, which has kept the company busy touring around the country since the 2018. It also wasn’t as sublime as its spring performance of works by Alvin Ailey and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. But the concert did offer a couple of strong works never before seen in Minneapolis.

“Something Amber,” originally commissioned by Alonzo King Lines Ballet Training Program, began the program and was the highlight of the night. It began in darkness to the sound of strings playing a long, sustained note. As the lights gradually lit the ensemble, the dancers moved like seaweed. Their arms floated above them, their bodies fluidly rising and falling.

Lush and alive, the work, which was presented by TU for the first time, had a sensorial quality, while Vladimir Martynov’s gorgeous neoclassical music provided the ghostly score.

The second piece in the program, “Clear as Tear Water,” originally was created by Ronald K. Brown for TU Co-Artistic Director Toni Pierce-Sands, who danced in its premiere in 2005. It’s a juicy solo, and Taylor Collier performed the piece with fortitude. There were flashes of traumatic history in the work: a slave with her arms tied behind her back, for instance. In another moment, a woman hunched over in backbreaking labor. We also see the central character exude power and strength, buoyed by those that came before her. There was a sense of renewal, even rebirth, particularly in its final moments, when Collier was doused with a stream of water, baptized in water and light.

“Salve,” commissioned for Ballet Memphis in 2017, featured a church pew as a central set piece and began with the dancers one by one prostrating themselves on the floor. Eventually, they discovered healing in the space. It’s set to Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” which loops a recording of an unknown homeless man singing with increasing harmonies of strings and brass.

The work was moving, even if you wanted to cry mercy to make the song stop repeating over and over by the end. There was an odd choice in costumes — the women’s diaphanous, light-colored dresses were paired with black socks, which was a rather strange look.

The program concluded with the company premiere of “Tracks,” originally commissioned by Alvin Ailey II in 2018. With glitter and shimmying shoulders, the piece paired revelry with gravitas.

Photo by Michael Slobodian ©

Review: TU Dance re-creates the past well, but the present feels more exciting

By ROB HUBBARD | Special to the Pioneer Press

PUBLISHED: May 4, 2019 at 1:32 am | UPDATED: May 4, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Now and then, TU Dance presents a program of dance from now and then. The St. Paul-based company will feel about as up-to-the-minute as one could hope, and then will pay tribute to the past, breathing life into something created in another era.

Such is the case with the troupe’s 15th anniversary program at the O’Shaughnessy on the campus of St. Catherine University. Beginning with a graceful, high-energy Ronald K. Brown piece that the company premiered at the Ordway two years ago, then delivering a work by intrepid theatrical adventurers Urban Bush Women, TU Dance finished the evening very much honoring the past with a pair of pieces by American dance giant Alvin Ailey.

While all were worthwhile experiences, Friday’s performance felt most powerful when the choreography was at its freshest. The Brown work was bursting with energy, launching the performance with a surge of electricity before Urban Bush Women veteran Jawole Willa Jo Zollar joined the troupe for a more intense and emotionally complex creation.

The Ailey dances were expertly delivered, but they seemed a bit too much like museum pieces to me, faithful re-creations tightly wrapped in nostalgia. While the O’Shaughnessy crowd surely loved Ailey’s 1974 work, “Night Creature” — rewarding it with a standing ovation — it was so immersed in “then” that I found myself longing for the urgency of “now” found on the program’s first half.

It’s understandable if the audience contained enough regulars at TU Dance performances that Brown’s “Where the Light Shines Through” felt a little too fresh. After all, the company just brought it to the stage for the first time in 2017. However, I was taken with its combination of cooperation and forthrightly asserted individuality. Bearing a Crayola box full of boldly colored costumes by Keiko Voltaire, the seven dancers threw their bodies about with admirable abandon, elements of traditional African dance emerging and sliding into unexpected synchronization. It felt like a slice of TU Dance at the peak of its powers.

The rest of the evening was made up of company premieres, starting with Zollar’s 2004 “Walking With Pearl … Africa Diaries.” Employing less music, more silence, the movement punctuated by the sound of breathing, it was a disarmingly intimate experience. Even more so because driving the mood were excerpts from the diaries of dancer Pearl Primus, read by Zollar from a chair at the stage’s edge. The text is a love letter to “Mother Africa,” evoking sweet mangoes and sunsets, tears and trauma, the words inspiring, each dancer sharing something quite individual and arresting while the soundtrack surged with an orchestra of kalimbas or the hypnotic sound of a kora, an African harp.

After intermission, it was all Ailey, starting with “Witness,” a solo work delivered expertly by Taylor Collier on opening night. Clad in a white gown, she danced before a choir loft full of cathedral candles while traditional gospel music filled the hall. Created in 1986, it was America’s most famous African-American choreographer returning to one of his favorite themes, the church of his childhood. As the soundtrack morphed into explosive improvisation on a saxophone, the dancing laid bare where the sacred meets the sexual in a very interesting performance.

But it also felt tightly tied to the past, as did “Night Creature,” which, despite being from 1974, is very much about the mid-20th-century twilight of big band swing as a cultural phenomenon. Spearheaded by the magnetic Alexis Staley and adorned in the eye-catching costumes of Barbara Forbes — with nods to both the ’50s and ’70s — it’s a hybrid of classical ballet and jazz dance that surely must have seemed iconoclastic when it premiered on TV.

While TU Dance’s founders and co-artistic directors, Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, surely wanted to pay homage to Ailey — in whose company they’d both once performed — I came away feeling as if the Brown and Zollar pieces were a greater tribute to the legendary dance artist’s spirit than the attempts to reconstruct his creations. On a program that seemed increasingly backward looking, I was reminded that TU Dance’s greatest asset is its heartfelt immediacy. 

Photo by Michael Slobodian ©

Review: TU Dance re-creates the past well, but the present feels more exciting

TU Dance Company Showing – Friday, October 4

In anticipation of TU Dance’s 16th season fall concert at The O’Shaughnessy on October 18-20, 2019, please join Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands for an informal in-studio showing at TU Dance Center. The showing will feature excerpts from the fall concert program.

The performance program features two company premieres by Artistic Director Uri Sands. Something Amber (2012), originally commissioned by Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program, is a full company work inspired by an illustrious string composition by neoclassical composer Vladimir Martynov. Tracks (2018), a full company work set to the legendary sounds of R&B music’s The O’Jays and originally commissioned by Ailey II, references the markings, wounds, and scars that our history leaves on us, pathways created or followed in life, and the regimen of building railroad tracks; manual labor and the arduousness of continuing on despite life’s challenges, in an effort to create better tomorrows. The program also features Ronald K. Brown’s Clear as Tear Water (2005), a solo originally created for Artistic Director Toni Pierce-Sands that explores the balance of a woman’s vulnerability and strength as she is supported by generations of women before her, and a reprisal of Sands’s Salve (2017), originally commissioned by Ballet Memphis and set to the music of Gavin Bryars, a meditative work for eight dancers that illustrates the idea of healing through the simple action of coming together. 

TU Dance’s fall concert is part of The O’Shaughnessy Presents series.

FRIDAY | October 4, 2019

Doors open at 5:00pm. Showing begins at 5:30pm. This event is free and open to the public.

TU Dance Center is located at 2121 University Avenue West, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114. Find us on the north side of University Avenue, one block east of Vandalia, located directly behind Subway on the building’s east side. Limited parking is available in the lot in front of TU Dance Center. Additional parking is available in the north side lot accessible by taking Vandalia St. and Charles Ave.

Photo by Michael Slobodian ©

TU Dance Company Showing – Friday, April 12th

In anticipation of the TU Dance 15th Anniversary Spring Concert at The O’Shaughnessy on May 3-5, 2019, please join Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands for an informal in-studio showing celebrating TU Dance’s 15th anniversary performance season. The showing will feature excerpts from the spring concert program, an unprecedented evening of works by legendary choreographers that have given form to the shared vision of TU Dance founding Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands.

The performance program will include two works by renowned modern dance pioneer Alvin Ailey. Night Creature (1974), “a bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance”, celebrates Duke Ellington’s “sparkling music”. In Witness (1986), inspired by a recording of traditional spirituals sung by Jessye Norman, “…a female soloist embarks on a spiritual journey that echoes the repeated lyric ‘my soul is a witness for my Lord.’” The program also features Urban Bush Women Founding Artistic Director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Walking with Pearl…Africa Diaries (2004)—a tribute to dance anthropologist Pearl Primus—narrated live by Ms. Zollar during the TU Dance performances, and a reprise of Ronald K. Brown’s Where The Light Shines Through (2017) originally created for TU Dance, which tells a story of solidarity and perseverance.

FRIDAY | April 12, 2019

Doors open at 5:00pm. Showing begins at 5:30pm. This event is free and open to the public.

TU Dance’s 15th Anniversary Season is supported in part by generous gifts from the Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, The Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program and the Markell C. Brooks Fund for Dance of The Minneapolis Foundation with production support from The O’Shaughnessy.

TU Dance Center is located at 2121 University Avenue West, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114. Find us on the north side of University Avenue, one block east of Vandalia, located directly behind Subway on the building’s east side. Limited parking is available in the lot in front of TU Dance Center. Additional parking is available in the Subway overflow parking lot located east of the TU Dance Center parking lot and in the north side lot accessible by taking a right on Vandalia and a right on Charles.

Photo by Michael Slobodian ©

Call for Choreographers

TU Dance is seeking guest choreographers for the 2019-2020 Season. Interested Choreographers should submit their materials to gemma.isaacson@tudance.org, including CV/résumé, work sample and a minimum of two personal references. Please include information about any upcoming performances of your work as it may be possible for the Artistic Directors to attend. Interviews are by invitation only. The Artistic Directors will make a pre-selection based on the materials you provide. Only those choreographers selected in the pre-selection process will be contacted for an interview.

Photo by Michael Slobodian

TU Dance 2019-2020 Audition Information

Call for Artists

TU Dance is now considering dancers for the 2019-2020 Season. Interested Artists should submit their materials to alanna.morris@tudance.org, including CV/résumé, work sample (YouTube or Vimeo links only), headshot and a minimum of two personal references. Please include information about any upcoming performances as it may be possible for the Artistic Directors to see your work. In-person auditions are by invitation only. The Artistic Directors will make a pre-selection based on the materials you provide. Only those dancers selected in the pre-selection process will be contacted for an in-person audition.

Thank you for your interest in working with TU Dance!

Photo by Michael Slobodian

TU Dance at 15: Honoring Years of Vibrant, Socially Conscious Work

The contemporary dance company in St. Paul revives an old commission in an anniversary performance Oct. 27

Published: 

In a typical Ernie Barnes painting, bodies coil around some physical feat—mid-stride, mid-breath, or mid-air. Clothes ripple. You can almost hear the bright colors. Barnes, born in the Jim Crow South in 1938, was also a professional football player. With paint, he captured scenes of springy athleticism while often illustrating his views on the leaps and pitfalls of the African American experience.

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts commissioned TU Dance for the first time in 2011, and choreographers Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands came up with a show inspired by the lissome, extended-limb elegance of Barnes’ work. Now, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the contemporary dance company in St. Paul’s South St. Anthony neighborhood, that show, With Love, returns. It melds with the music of Donny Hathaway, jazz and blues legend from the ’70s.

And it reminds us that, for 15 seasons, TU Dance has not only brought national attention to the Twin Cities’ dance scene (recently putting on a show with Bon Iver). It has also consistently and uniquely examined the body as it confronts narratives on gender and race. Like Barnes, TU Dance tackles important questions—about social justice, history, and human resiliency—with verve.

TU Dance’s anniversary performance, on Saturday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m., also features a new retrospective work covering the company’s history since its 2004 founding. And eight dancers will perform Salve, a 2017 commission by Ballet Memphis, where grooves interlace to demonstrate healing through community. Before the show, artistic directors Sands and Pierce-Sands discuss how it came together. Afterward, in a 20-minute Q&A, they and company members open up.

Contact Us