Dance Master Class with Gioconda Barbuto, March 4

Encompassing, integrating, exploring and communicating, with a fun and direct approach that builds towards spatial awareness, improvisation, choreography and the development of physical language. These movement workshop can easily lend themselves towards dance, circus, opera, theatre and more.
March 4, 2017
2:00-3:30pm, TU Dance Center
Cost: $16
Student Name:

“Gioconda’s workshop is based upon three fundamental points necessary for a dancer to thrive: reactivity, imagination and collective consciousness. Bringing the individuality and personality of each artist as the center of creation, the class proposes a series of improvisations which by the universality of the themes she proposes — the question of ego, of presence and the expressivity — applies as much to dancers as to circus artists, actors and singers. Revolving around the question of exchange, the workshop takes place in only 2 hours or less and unfolds like a pre orchestrated performance and a formidable human and artistic adventure.” Thomas Birzan, Dance Artist.

Gioconda Barbuto is an Italo-Canadian dancer and choreographer. She began her training with Gladys Forrester and pursued her artistic development at the Banff Centre and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. A dancer of explosive wit, subtle intelligence, and a fine sense of theatricality, Gioconda has distinguished herself throughout her career in an impressive number of works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Michel Fokine, Christopher House, Jiri Kylián, Hans Van Manen, James Kudelka, José Limon, Brian Macdonald, Mark Morris, Ohad Naharin, Fernand Nault, Anthony Tudor, Sol León /Paul Lightfoot, Meryl Tankard, Johann Inger, American performance designer and director Robert Wilson and many others. She danced with the Minnesota Dance Theatre before becoming a soloist with Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, where she danced for 16 years.  In 1998 she was invited by Jiri Kylian to join Nederlands Dans Theater III in The Hague, Holland, with a group of high caliber dancers, all over the age of forty, and toured internationally with the company for eight years. Gioconda is featured in two of Jiri Kylian’s award winning Films, Birth Day and Car Men.  In 1996 she was nominated for the Kennedy Center Fellowship and was the recipient of the Clifford E. Lee choreography award. She is a recipient of several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and has created many of her own solo and group projects with many renowned dance artists, such as Margie Gillis, Ginette Laurin, Paul Andre Fortier, Coleman/Lemieux, Martino Müller, Anik Bissonnette, Emily Molnar and Joe Laughlin to name a few.  Gioconda‘s choreography has been presented at TU Dance, Ballet BC, Ballet Jorgen, Banff Festival Ballet, Danse Cite, Tangente, L’Agora de la danse, Vancouver Dance Centre, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, BJM Danse Montreal, Alberta Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, Northwest Dance Project, McKnight Fellowship Solo Commission, Bravo FACT, CBC Canada/Films Piche Ferrari, Ballet Kelowna, The Juilliard School, Arts Umbrella Dance Company, You Dance/National Ballet of Canada, Simon Fraser University Dance, Ecole Supérieure de Ballet de Quebec, Dutch National Ballet Academy, Nederlands Dans Theater Choreographic Workshop and many more. Gioconda has also created and directed the graduating production L’Abri, for the National Circus School.  The 2015-2016 season brought many new projects and highlights for Gioconda. She was selected as the 2015 McKnight International Artist and has choreographed and premiered a new work for the partnering company TU Dance entitled FOOTPRINT with music by Gabriel Prokofiev. Her season began with a creation and performance of a new work in collaboration with Joe Laughlin, entitled 4OUR, which continued on an eastern Canada tour in the fall of 2016. Amongst her many commissions, she also choreographed a new solo for Joe Laughlin and was invited back to Arts Umbrella Dance Company, Ecole Supérieure de Ballet de Quebec as well as the Dutch National Ballet Academy. Gioconda also conducted creative movement workshops for Danse a la Carte, University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium, TU Dance, and for the summer dance intensives of the Dutch National Ballet, Arts Umbrella Dance and RUBBERBANDance Group. Her workshops will also be featured at the Vancouver Training Society and Yokohama Dance Intensive. This spring, for the Atelier et Laboratoire de Creation, Gioconda will be on faculty for the 10th Anniversary of TransFormation Danse. Gioconda continues to share her passion for Dance and the Performance Arts through her choreography, performances, movement workshops, directing and coaching.

Open Ballet Class with Jennifer Hart | Monday, February 6

Jennifer Hart will be teaching open ballet class on Monday, February 6 at 9:30am.  Please join us!

Cost: $14/class. Class card accepted.

Jennifer Hart is a choreographer whose work has been commissioned by Ballet Austin, Ballet Austin ll, Ballet Nouveau Colorado, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, The Walker Art Center’s Momentum Series, The McKnight Fellowship for Dancers, Metropolitan Ballet Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Lawrence Ballet Theatre.  In 2011, Hart was awarded a New York City Ballet Fellowship and won third place at the Saint-Sauveur International Choreography Competition. She received second place at Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s choreography competition, and was one of three winners of the University of Kansas’ competitive choreography competition. She was chosen three times to present work at Ballet Builders, New Choreographer’s on Point in NYC. She was commissioned by University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2013; the work was chosen for the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center, June 2014. In March 2015, she premiered a new ballet, To Here, for Ballet Austin’s Director’s Choice. In 2014, she formed Performa/Dance with Ballet Austin dancer Edward Carr. Performa/Dance launched its inaugural show Ignite: Three Works, in June, 2014. Her work for Performa/Dance was awarded two Austin Critic’s Table awards for Best Short Work (“On Truth and Love”) and Best Dance Concert (Ignite: Three Works). Along with her work in concert dance, she has choreographed and performed cabaret shorts for nightclubs and television. She trained at Minnesota Dance Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. Her performing career includes Minnesota Dance Theatre, Ballet of the Dolls, and L.A Chamber Ballet, as well as independent choreographers. She choreographs yearly for Ballet Austin’s apprentices and Fellowship recipients, teaches full-time in the academy, and serves as Curriculum Leader for the lower levels of the school.

Pioneer Press: TU Dance talks about race and identity through movement

  • What: TU Dance
  • When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: The O’Shaughnessy, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
  • Tickets: $34-$18; 651-690-6700 or

TU Dance has a few things to say about race and equality.

But the St. Paul-based dance company won’t use words to express the message.

Dance will carry the message in TU Dance’s fall concert this weekend. Performances include two premieres as well as a reprise. New York choreographer Francesca Harper’s commissioned piece, “In Witnessing,” looks at how the human body reacts to injustice and violence. “Matter,” choreographed by TU Dance co-founder Uri Sands, touches on the recent tragedies of racial bias and profiling. Finally, the return of Sands’ “Tearing” examines how communities connect in grief and celebration.

“We do our work and honor our art and craft and responsibility by utilizing this platform to very simply just address what’s going on,” Sands said.

After meeting at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, Sands and his wife, Toni Pierce-Sands, founded TU in 2004. The company has navigated social change in their works in the past, but this is the first time a performance has had a central theme.

Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, a dancer in her 10th season at TU, talked of how dance can recreate connections where words, such as “I can’t breathe,” cannot when they are politicized or desensitized.

“You have a body. We all have a body. They have a body. That’s something we all have,” Morris-Van Tassel said. “If I’m showing you what it means to have a lump (in your throat), you’re going to get a lump. If I’m anxious, you’re going to feel anxious in your body, too. And I feel like it can also become more of an access point for audiences because that’s something that we all share.”

The dancers said the choreography lets them represent the events and issues of the Black Lives Matter movement — putting their hands up, getting down on their knees or lying on the ground with their hands behind their backs.

“I feel that, as a young person, my voice isn’t as valued as it could be,” said Randall Riley, a second-year dancer at TU. Dance is his form of activism, he said. “I’m doing this physical thing on a stage, and then afterward I’m speaking to people about what I shared and what they experienced,” Riley said.

Toni Pierce-Sands, artistic director and co-founder of TU, said dance gives artists a voice.

“We’re still able to do our work when disasters happen,” Pierce-Sands explained. “Therefore, the artists become the historians, through their vocabulary of their art. So the importance of us as artists (is) being able to have some sort of voice in what’s happening in our world.”

Riley added: “I feel like, as an artist, as a dancer, it’s almost a duty at times. It feels like so much has been said, why not have the voices of artists be a part of the discussion?”

TU Dance talks about race and identity through movement

Master Class with Aszure Barton

Northrop Auditorium and TU Dance Center invite you to a dance contemporary master class with Aszure Barton for advanced/intermediate students at TU Dance Center.

November 11, 10:30am-12:00pm at TU Dance Center

Cost: $10, free for UofM students

To register visit

Hailed by critics and audiences alike, Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton is the founder and director of Aszure Barton & Artists. She has created works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Nederlands Dans Theater, National Ballet of Canada, Martha Graham Dance Company, Bayerisches Staatsballett, Sydney Dance Company, Houston Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, among many others. Her workshave been performed on countless international stages including Palais Garnier, The Kennedy Center, The Stanislavsky Theater, Sadler’s Wells, and Lincoln Center. Other choreography credits include the Broadway revival production of The Threepenny Opera directed by Scott Elliott (translation by Wallace Shawn and starring Cyndi Lauper, Alan Cumming, Jim Dale, Nellie Mackay, and Ana Gasteyer), film and installation projects, and international outreach activities such as Kenya’s Earth Project: Healing the Rift, at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. Barton has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine and her choreography has appeared in television projects, including the Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts Series with Alice Waters and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was the first artist-in-residence at The Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2005 and was a resident artist at The Banff Center from 2009-13. She has been proclaimed an official Ambassador of Contemporary Choreography in Canada and has received many accolades including the prestigious Arts & Letters Award, joining the ranks of Oscar Peterson, Eugene Levy, Karen Kain, and Christopher Plummer. Barton was born and raised in Alberta, Canada, and received her formal dance training at the National Ballet School, where, as a student, she helped originate the ongoing Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Showcase. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is a lover of green tea. Aszure Barton & Artists is a home for visual, sound, and performing artists and engineers, cohering in creative residencies to evoke the movement-based vision and free spirit of its founder. We seek to embrace risk and vulnerability to create work that is universal, intimate, and entertaining. Visit for more information.

TU Dance Company Showing, November 3

 New works by Francesca Harper and Uri Sands explore contemporary tensions of race, culture and identity.

In anticipation of the TU Dance Fall Concert at the O’Shaughnessy, November 18-20, please join Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands at TU Dance Center for an informal in-studio showing on Thursday, November 3, from 5:30-6:30pm. The showcase will feature excerpts from the fall concert program, which includes two world premieres by Francesca Harper and Uri Sands.

Thursday, November 3, 2016
5:30-6:30 pm (doors open at 5:00 pm)

Parking is available in front of TU Dance Center and in the parking lot located in the north side of the building, accessible through Vandalia Street and Charles Avenue.

Photo by Michael Slobodian ©




Ends this Sunday: A $2600 Match to Support TU Dance Students

Dance education changes lives!  Click here and help us raise the funds that will allow us to continue to provide access to dance for all youth!
15 TU Dance Center families have stepped forward to create a $2,600 matching gift fund for our 7 day flash crowdfunding campaign. This means that the families will match every dollar that you give. The funds raised through the crowdfunding campaign will go to supporting our youth classes, which offer high level dance education to youth from all different backgrounds.
Your support makes it possible to share the remarkable, life-changing opportunity of dance. For questions, please contact Abdo Sayegh Rodriguez, TU Dance Managing Director: Thank you for supporting the connective power of dance and for your consideration of a contribution to the TU Dance Parent/Guardian Matching Fund.
TU Dance Center students in performance, 2016 | Photo Andrea Thomas

StarTribune Review: TU Dance Spring 2016 Concert

Star Tribune | STAGE & ARTS | May 21, 2016

TU dancers demonstrate passion, power in Uri Sands’ ‘No One Will See’
Review: A second piece by Uri Sands, “Veneers,” is just as eloquent, if gentler.

By SHEILA REGAN Special to the Star Tribune

The TU dancers get into formation for a thrilling new piece by Uri Sands called “No One Will See,” which premiered at the Cowles Center this weekend.

The visceral work, performed by the company dancers as well as students from the University of Minnesota Dance Department, taps into a guttural force that startles in its potency.

The performers in the work wear black hats with veils hanging over their faces, creating an alien look, as designed by Shannon Gauer and Toni Pierce-Sands. The score, with music by Vladimir Martynov, Mike Sheridan and Antony and the Johnsons, also propels the piece into extraordinary realms.

After a prolonged opening section where the dancers wander around the darkly lit stage embracing one another, they form a straight line across the stage, as the tiniest ripple of movement flows from one side of the line to the other before they scurry forward as one organism.

The piece explodes into a Dionysian rite, the dancers summoning energy out of the ground in a wild ritual. In a later section, members of the core group of dancers become like children, erupting in play, their blindness facilitating the expansiveness of their imagination. The piece concludes with a riveting duet of two dancers becoming one creature, ultimately destroying itself in a harrowing final moment.

The piece contrasts starkly with Sands’ other work presented at the Cowles, “Veneers,” from 2006, which, like “No One Will See,” conjures a spirituality, but one that is much more elevated and ethereal than the later work’s raw explosion.

The spirituality in “Veneers” has an ecclesiastical quality. With stark dancing accompanied by classical strings and choral music, the dancers suffocate within the rigidity of the confined movement as they search for validation from outside of themselves.

Created 10 years apart from each other, the two works shown together display the incredible trajectory Sands’ choreography has taken in that time. Where the earlier work embraces a classical aesthetic and extremely structured movement, in his newest work he all but abandons formal modes, instead finding a quality that’s drawn from ancestral instinct.

Besides Sands’ two pieces, TU also presented a world premiere of “Candle,” by guest choreographer Kyle Abraham. The intimate piece, which moves in and out of solo and duet forms, showcases the incredible talent of the TU dancers, who besides their jaw-dropping athleticism, evoke lyrical grace and intense connection with one another.

Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

Kyle Abraham Creates New Work for TU Dance

Celebrated New York choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham was at TU Dance Center in March, creating an original work for TU Dance. Commissioned through the generosity of the David & Rosemary Good Family Foundation, Abraham’s new work, Candle, divides the space between solo figure and duet form as a way of focusing on isolation and longing. Created as a 3-part vignette, each section uses songs that Abraham equates with varying aspects of loving and longing. Candle will premiere at the upcoming 2016 TU Dance spring dance concert at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis.


Abraham’s choreography has been presented around the United States at venues such as Dance Theatre Workshop, Bates Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Fall for Dance Festival at New York’s City Center, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, On The Boards, Portland’s Time Based Arts Festival, REDCAT, Philly Live Arts, Danspace Project, and the Harlem Stage. His work has also been seen internationally at The Okinawa Prefectural Museum (Japan), Springboard Danse Montreal (Canada), Project Arts Centre (Ireland), and the Internationales Solo-Tanz-Theater Festival (Germany), as well as various locations in Jordan and Ecuador. Abraham is founder and Artistic Director of Abraham In Motion.

Photos:  Upper – Kyle Abraham, photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Lower – Kyle Abraham in rehearsal at TU Dance Center, pictured with company member Darwin Black

Laurel Keen Named Director of the School at TU Dance Center

TU Dance Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands are pleased to announce the hiring of Laurel Keen as Director of the School at TU Dance Center. Keen, whose outstanding performing career includes nearly a decade with the San Francisco’s renowned Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco, will provide day-to-day leadership of the rapidly growing dance education program.

“Laurel’s fresh perspective on training for aspiring young dancers, coupled with her unparalleled ability, wisdom and breadth of knowledge in the field of contemporary ballet, will have a profound impact on TU Dance Center students,” noted Toni and Uri. “How fortunate we are that Laurel——one of the leading contemporary dance artists of this era——has chosen to deepen her work in dance, here at home in the Twin Cities.”

laurel 2 coversLaurel Keen has been a professional dancer since 1999 and has also been teaching dance for the last decade. As a student she trained at Minnesota Dance Theatre and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and attended several renowned summer programs. After performing professionally with Minnesota Dance Theater, she spent a decade alongside Alonzo King from LINES Ballet in San Francisco, where she originated 21 roles, earned the prestigious Princess Grace Award, and was featured on the covers of Dance and Pointe magazines. Laurel recently moved back to the Twin Cities and earned her degree as Physical Therapist Assistant, working with Reynolds Rehab and Orthology Physical Therapy. She has also been teaching for several schools in the Twin Cities including The School at TU Dance Center.

Founded in 2011 to provide excellent and accessible training for aspiring young dancers, the School at TU Dance Center has recently experienced significant growth, leading to an expansion at the current University Avenue facility, located in St. Paul’s Raymond-Midway neighborhood. Over 150 students are now enrolled in TU Dance programs, ranging from introductory classes for young children to advanced training for pre-professional dance artists.

“I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the school at TU Dance Center from the very beginning,” said Keen. “It has been a joy to watch it change and unfold into the unique, diverse and thriving school it is today. I feel humbled and grateful that Toni and Uri have entrusted me with this new role and the opportunity to join the TU Dance family in a more substantial way. I look forward to getting to know each individual student and helping them develop confidence in their voice, not only as a dancer, but as a human being. I hope to bring my experience to the table to support and carry out the vision that Toni and Uri have imagined for the School at TU Dance Center.”

Star Tribune Review: TU Dance 2015 Fall Concert

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.

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