Jennifer Hart will be teaching open ballet class on Monday, February 6 from 9:30-11:00am.
Cost: $14/class or class card.
November 19, 2016 at 11:25 am
When words fail, there’s always dance.
While movement can be an abstract medium, as obsequious as music in its resistance to being tied to clear, unambiguous messages, St. Paul-based TU Dance has a style that could be described as eloquent. Its 10-member troupe places a premium on grace, fluidity and a kind of urgent expressiveness. While much credit is due co-artistic directors Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands, Friday evening’s TU Dance performance at St. Paul’s O’Shaughnessy felt like a successful collaboration, celebrating individuality and the rewards of collective creation.
There are three works on TU Dance’s fall program, but one sharp focus: How it feels to be black and American, whether confronting bias and hostility from police officers or just trying to establish relationships built around love and acceptance. With two premieres sandwiched around an 11-year-old piece by Uri Sands, it proved a powerful statement that clearly went where words could not.
At first, Francesca Harper’s “In Witnessing” seemed too word-dependent. After a recording of a heated confrontation between a cop and a presumably black motorist, Toni Pierce-Sands walked about with a microphone as dancers spoke short phrases from diced-up exchanges. Long are the silences and the periods when dancers are intent upon asserting their own individual gestures, but that made all the more exhilarating an extraordinary interweaving of tandems to part of a J.S. Bach “Brandenburg” Concerto.
Uri Sands’ 2005 piece, “Tearing,” hypnotized with its examination of three relationships. The celebration of a bond and the sadness of losing one came through strongly in each duet, touching when Adam McGaw expressed innocent confusion at Youthen Joseph’s body being drained of life and absorbing as Tara Cacciatore and Darwin Black established a physical familiarity with breathtakingly beautiful interaction.
But the work that most audience members will come away discussing is Sands’ latest, “Matter.” As a Martin Luther King speech marched on resiliently through landscapes of hip-hop, electronic dance music and jazz, the 10 dancers — clad in variations on the stars and stripes that appear drained of color by Carolyn Wong’s intriguing lighting design — formed a human chain disrupted by interludes that suggested arrest, incarceration and liberation. At its center is an intensely gripping solo by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel that exuded strength and palpable devastation.
“Matter” (like “Tearing”) ends not in triumph, but with a sense of clearly resolving to get up and go on. It inspires without pushing any convenient emotional buttons, and underlines that not only are we fortunate to have as gifted a choreographer as Sands in our midst, but that TU Dance is a company with a voice all its own.
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?”
Northrop Auditorium and TU Dance Center invite you to a contemporary dance 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
Online registration required at: http://z.umn.edu/aszurebartonmasterclass
Explore how we can use our skeletal alignment, find clarity in movement awareness and understand how our musculature reorganizes during the poses to maintain ease. Each class will focus on a different theme geared towards adapting our bodies to the current season. All levels are welcome.
COST: $12/class or $100/10 classes
No pre-registration required. For more information visit programs and classes at tudance.org
Four skill-building workshops led by experts in their respective fields, geared towards teaching artists and arts administrators. Supported by a grant from the AROHA Philanthropies.
Mental Health with Kelly Greene-Vagts
Monday, August 29th, 2:30-5:30pm, $35
Teaching Artist and Musician Communication with Toni Pierce-Sands, Eric Jensen, Michelle Kinney and Jess Pierce
Tuesday, August 30th, 2:30-5:30pm, $35
Cultural Competency with Radious Guess
Wednesday, August 31, 2:30-4:00pm, 4:30-6:00pm, and Thursday, September 1, 4:00-5:30pm, $40
Body-Mind Centering with Margie Fargnoli
Thursday, September 1, 2:30-4:00pm and Friday, September 2, 2:30-5:30pm, $40
To register, please see any TU Dance staff or visit programs and classes at tudance.org
Join us for a master class with New York choreographer Gregory Dolbashian
August 13, 10:00am-12:00pm
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. 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.
Cost: $16 (online pre-registration required)
For information visit www.tudance.org