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.

StarTribune Review: 2014 Fall Dance Concert

TU Dance showcases quicksilver beauty in world premiere

Article by: CAROLINE PALMER , Special to the Star Tribune

Updated: November 23, 2014 – 9:12 PM

The new work by Icelandic choreographer Katrin Hall casts TU dancers within the bigger context of nature itself.

Uri Sands and Toni-Pierce Sands of TU Dance probably didn’t anticipate January weather when they asked Icelandic choreographer Katrín Hall to create a world premiere for their fall season, but the frozen landscape outside The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul on Friday night set a suitable tone for “Andrými.”

This stark work, set against projected images of arctic places, has a remote sort of beauty to it, as if transported from an ice cave to thaw out on stage.

Hall juxtaposes movement qualities in “Andrými.” Over the course of time, locked limbs loosen and bodies become pliable, melting into the floor or one another. The quicksilver dancers cultivate a volatile relationship — at times brittle and snappish, but also supportive — as if they are a hearty gang of survivors trying to negotiate a harsh environment.

But even as the work tends toward introspection, it doesn’t alienate or depress. Instead “Andrými” — which is an Icelandic word referring to space and breath — places the human experience within the bigger context of nature itself. We are small beings who nonetheless rail against larger obstacles, either inside ourselves or in the world around us. It’s a quiet sort of rage, and yet when unleashed can cause an avalanche of emotions. And that is Hall’s purpose, to break apart what is frozen to find the warmth within.

The program also featured two TU repertory favorites, both choreographed by Sands. “One” (2013), which was inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks (the unwitting source for human cells used in medical research), is among the best works in recent years from a local artist. Performed by eight women, the piece is a poignant meditation on loss and possibility. It is passionate, sorrowful and flat-out beautiful. “High Heel Blues” (2005) is a playful duet about loving what hurts you. Impressive company apprentice Taylor Collier and recent Sage Award winner Duncan Schultz delivered a high-spirited performance.

Dwight Rhoden’s “If and Or” (2013) kicked off the evening. “The detail is in the pattern” is a recurring line in the score, and it describes the constantly shifting relationships onstage. It’s a dance about precision and for that reason seems more like an exercise in technique, but at the same time choreographers like Merce Cunningham have shown us that there are always small rebellions within even the most formal structures.

Caroline Palmer writes about dance.

2014 Fall Concert Preview: CityPages

TU Dance Premieres Work by Icelandic Choreographer Katrin Hall

By Sheila Regan Fri., Nov. 21 2014 at 9:06 AM  |
Categories: Dance

This weekend, TU Dance premieres a new work by Icelandic choreographer Katrin Hall for a commission by the O’Shaughnessy. The evening will also include a work about Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cell, choreographed by TU’s co-artistic director Uri Sands; a duet by Sands, called High Heel Blues; and a full-company contemporary ballet piece, titled If and Or, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden.>>READ MORE


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“Hikari [was] a masterful blend of choreography, raw emotions, and stunning visuals with a whisper of grace notes at the end. When it comes back around, don’t miss it.”
–Stephen Yoakam, actor

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