Virtual Flow Space class with Gregory Dolbashian, August 15

As part of the TU Dance Summer Intensive with Gregory Dolbashian and Guests, TU Dance is offering a virtual masterclass with Gregory Dolbashian.

Saturday, August 15 | 1:00-2:30pm CST

Cost: $15/participant

Join us for Flow Space, an atmosphere that allows for the act of “pure play” to help dance artists use more capacity, intellect, sense, courage, and imagination in their movement styles. Conducted by director of The DASH Ensemble, Gregory Dolbashian, the class is a highly developed series of improvisational tools and games that warms and pushes both the mind and the body to break habits and fulfill more presence. These exercises are all methods that Gregory has developed and utilized to create movement with The DASH. The artists learn confidence not just in themselves but also in the environment that they are a part of. Games and tasks work both on the individual and in tandem, so that Flow Space creates a community for progress, inspiration, and most of all, discovery. Classes are for dancers aged 16+.

To register, please complete the information requested below. A Zoom link will be emailed 30 minutes prior to the class on August 15.

Student Name:

Intersect Summer Intensive, August 3-8

Evidence, A Dance Company and TU Dance join forces in an inspiring 1-week virtual Summer Intensive. Intersect (to meet and cross at a point/to share a common area), is an open level inter-generational Summer Intensive for participants with a wide range to no dance experience that will provide the opportunity to experience both companies’ approaches to dance and dance training.

Participants will begin each day with classes from TU Dance Center teaching artists, including TU Dance Artistic Director Toni Pierce-Sands, that are grounded in TU Dance’s three pillars of Horton-based modern, West African and ballet. While these are commonly referred to as technique classes or training, TU Dance takes a look into how these dance forms intersect with one another and the many possibilities they offer. The goal of these classes is to prepare the dancer’s mind, body and spirit to be fully present, ready to receive and engage, tap into different energies and feel prepared to move openly into what follows. The workshop section of this intensive will be led by Evidence, A Dance Company Artistic Director Ronald K. Brown and Associate Artistic Director Arcell Cabuag. Participants will learn Evidence repertory as well as Afro-Cuban and traditional and contemporary African dance techniques that are incorporated in the choreographic style.

The Intersect Summer Intensive will conclude with a discussion between teaching artists and students followed by a celebratory class open to the community. See the Intersect Summer Intensive Daily Schedule here. All classes will be provided via Zoom.

August 3-8, 2020 | Registration deadline extended: Sunday – August 2, 2020

Cost: $500 (inclusive of the registration fee). A limited number of scholarships will be offered. To apply for an scholarship please complete this form by July 29.

To learn more and to register visit Intersect at http://www.tudance.org/summer/

Read the press release here.

Mural Making in Times of Resilience

A mural has been created to transform the boards that have been protecting TU Dance Center since the riots that occurred in the Twin Cities following the murder of George Floyd in collaboration between TU Dance Center students and artist/dancer/choreographer, Lela Pierce and graffiti artist Kyle Alexander, with contributions by TU Dance Center teaching artist Herb Johnson III and community artist Pramila Vasudevan. This will be a space for our community to process the grief, sadness and anger felt by our community during this time and also a space to express our unwavering belief that black and brown lives matter and our hope for the future that we imagine is possible.

Please feel free to drive by TU Dance Center to see the front entrance mural before the boards are removed. The window boards have been stored inside the building. The full art work will be displayed inside TU Dance Center and available for viewing once the space is reopened.

(see mural making photo gallery below)

Meet the Artists:

Lela Pierce was born and raised in rural Minnesota on Dakota and Anishinaabe land. She currently resides in South Minneapolis. As an interdisciplinary artist, she creates painting, performance/dance, sculptural installation and sound based work. Through practice she strives toward a deep rooted connection to land and place and a deep yearning for ancestral healing. Lela has presented work locally at several different Twin Cities venues and internationally in both Sweden and India. She is a Jerome Emerging Artist recipient 2018 and is currently pursuing an MFA in the interdisciplinary art and social practice area of the Art Department of the University of Minnesota.

McKnight Fellow, Herb Johnson III Aka JDot Tight Eyez graduated from Perpich Center for the Performing Arts in 2010 and studied 3 years at the Lundstrum Center for Arts. Herb is now at the University of Minnesota as an Urban & Street dance instructor. He currently choreographs and performs solo and in groups 612 Crew, DeadPool, and Mixtape. Professional work includes iLuminate from America’s Got Talent, Choreographing G-Easy’sHalftime show 2018, and SuperBowl 52 half-time Show 2018 with Justin Timberlake. Herb began teaching for The School at TU Dance Center in Fall 2019.

Kyle Alexander was born in Chicago and raised in South Minneapolis. He is an avid skateboarder and loves to listen to music, paint and hang with friends. In recent weeks he and his friends have painted several boarded up storefronts in Minneapolis – responding to the Murder of George Floyd in graffiti style. Kyle finds inspiration and a sense of being grounded through the love and care of his mother and grandmother and the relationships he has built with community members on the Southside.

The Time Is Now.

This is a distressing time in our history. We watched the brutal murder of an unarmed, black man on the streets of Minneapolis on video on Monday, May 25, adding to the United States’ legacy of police victimizing its black citizenry. TU Dance is proud to be a black-led organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We have received a great deal of support from our community while remaining steadfast in the pursuit of equal access to ALL PEOPLE to world-class dance that transforms us and connects us to our shared humanity. At the same time, we are hurting right now because we cannot deny that humanity is upheld for some, but not all of us.

Here at TU Dance, we are asking ourselves: What more can we do?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King

We ask that you join us in the pursuit of justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and countless others black, brown and trans people whose names are not forgotten.

Many Twin Cities businesses have been burned down, constricting and in some cases eliminating families’ access to food and essential household items. Here is a resource sheet connecting you to places that are providing help in the Twin Cities. Taking a more long-term approach to the systemic issues we face, consider joining and supporting Campaign Zero. From their website, “Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide.”

Within the TU Dance community, we continue to offer dance classes keeping in mind those who need to connect with others and find healing through making art. We are Taking time and space to reset with elder community member, Ms. Mary K. Boyd. We plan to create a Facebook group as a network, support system and resource sharing platform for our families, teachers, accompanists and staff during this time. Our students will also be reflecting on written prompts and collaborating with artists from the graffiti community to create a mural on the plywood boards that are currently protecting TU Dance Center. The intention is that this artwork will stand as a reminder of this time and part of the landscape once our doors are open again.

We are here to remind you that dance will always matter to us and that you matter to us. Continue to take care of yourselves during this time, and as you have the ability to do so, please lend a hand. The social and political framework that condones systemic white violence against black and brown bodies in this country must come to an end. The time is now.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King JR

From all of us at TU Dance

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

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 ©

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