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

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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.


PHOTO BY MICHAEL SLOBODIAN

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.


PHOTO BY MICHAEL SLOBODIAN

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.

In Studio Company Showing, October 10

In anticipation of the TU Dance 15th Anniversary Fall Concert at the Ordway Center on October 27, please join Artistic Directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands at TU Dance Center for an informal in-studio showing celebrating TU Dance’s 15th anniversary performance season. The showing will feature excerpts from the fall concert program, including a new retrospective work reflecting on the company’s rich repertoire of thought-provoking works as well as the Ordway’s first commission for TU Dance — With Love (2011), inspired by the paintings of African American artist Ernie Barnes and set to the legendary music of Donny Hathaway. Also on the program is Uri Sands’ Salve, a work that brings people together in hope from adversity, originally commissioned in 2017 by Ballet Memphis.

Wednesday, October 10. Doors open at 5:00pm. Showing begins at 5:30pm. Refreshments to be provided.

Space is limited. Advanced registration required. RSVP here or call 651-282-3115

This activity is supported by a grant from the Good Family Foundation.

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.

Free Boys Class, October 13

Please join us for a free Boys Dance class (ages 9-12) on Saturday October 13, 9:45-10:45am with TU Dance company member Randall Riley. Boys Dancing is a physical experience that promotes body awareness, strength and coordination through dance concepts and music. Students are still able to enroll for our Fall session which is currently underway and runs through December 8.

Dancing Your Story: Workshop 3

A curriculum designed for adults ages 55+.

Join teaching artists Thern Anderson & Mary Moore Easter in a dance and writing workshop at TU Dance Center. Movement will be explored in combination with creative writing to create a real or imaginary story. Participants will work on movement phrases and choreography expanding their range of motion. Classes are accompanied by live music.

This workshop is available to all levels and abilities. No previous experience is necessary. Limited spaces available. This workshop is free. All sessions and the culminating event will be held at TU Dance Center.

Dates: Mondays, 2:00-3:30pm, October 29-December 17 (8 sessions)

Culminating event: December 17, 3:30-5:00pm

For more information and to register, please contact TU Dance Education & Outreach Coordinator Kaitin Kelly Benedict at kaitin.kbenedict@tudance.org or 612-605-1925.

Thern Anderson is a dance educator with a wealth of experience teaching children, adults, professional dancers and community groups. Thern brings somatic movement principles and improvisational skills to her teaching of modern dance techniques. In teaching dance to beginning adults, her philosophy is that anyone can dance and find pleasure in movement. Classes include the study of body and spatial awareness,  rhythm and phrasing, ensemble dancing, and injury prevention.  Students learn through modern dance phrases as well as improvisational structures.Mary Moore Easter’s first poetry collection, The Body of the World, is forthcoming from MadHad Press in 2018. The manuscript is also a finalist for the Prairie Schooner Bok Prize in 2017.  A Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Easter is published in POETRY, The New York Times, Seattle Review, Water Stone, Calyx, Pluck!, Persimmon Tree, Fjord’s Review, The Little Patuxent Review and the 2015 anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and an M.A. from Goddard. Born in Petersburg, Virginia to parents on the faculty of then-segregated Virginia State College, she was as immersed in their artistic and intellectual interests as she was in limitations segregation imposed on her black world. She re-rooted as faculty at Minnesota’s Carleton College where she was founder and director of the Dance Program.

This activity is supported by a grant from Aroha Philanthropies Seeding Vitality Arts Initiative and in partnership with Episcopal Homes.

TU Dance and the International Association of Blacks in Dance

TWENTY-FIVE BLACK-LED DANCE COMPANIES AWARDED QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS

The International Association of Blacks in Dance distributes a second round of MOVE (Managing Organizational Vitality and Endurance) grants to dance companies in 12 States across the U.S.
with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) has awarded $250,000 to 25 Black-led member companies throughout the United States. Each company has received an unrestricted INFLUENCERS grant of $10,000 for general operating expenses. IABD awarded the grants as part of its inaugural financial and organizational health program, MOVE: Managing Organizational Vitality and Endurance, which was generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“This round of grants penetrates to the very root of our communities, where these companies thrive, create, and provide much needed services to their constituencies. These organizations are critical and serve as a lifeline in many communities across the U.S. They are literally saving lives,” said Denise Saunders Thompson, President and CEO of IABD. “IABD is awarding general operating support grants to offer just a bit of relief and funding capital to address any challenges they might be facing. The companies include:

Iibada Dance Company, Indianapolis, IN
Dance Iquail, Philadelphia, PA
Muntu Dance Theatre, Chicago, IL
Robert Moses’ KIN, San Francisco, CA
Step Afrika, Washington, DC
Threads Dance Project, Golden Valley, MN
Eleone Dance Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
TU Dance, St. Paul, MN
Urban Bush Women, Brooklyn, NY
Garth Fagan Dance, Rochester, NY
Washington Reflections Dance Co, Washington, DC

The COLLECTIVE Cohort, as they are called, is participating in a peer-to-peer online learning community that includes technical assistance, financial planning, organizational development strategies and training with the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), as well as relevant and important discussions on issues facing these companies on a day-to-day basis. The COLLECTIVE kicked off its activities in July with an online webinar administered by IABD and NFF. The training includes access to information and tools that will support longevity and strengthen the capacity of these organizations to remain recognized artistic and thought leaders.

In March 2018, IABD received a $2,636,000, multi-year grant award from The Mellon Foundation for Phase II of the organization’s Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative (COHI). In partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund, this phase of the COHI program offers capital deployment, financial consultation, and technical assistance to participating IABD member companies.  Responding directly to many of the lessons learned from Phase I activities (i.e. site visits, financial diagnostics, educational workshops), it serves as recommended next steps to strengthen IABD, Inc., its member organizations, and by extension, the field of Black dance. The collaborative nature of this program aims to ensure the vitality of the Black dance sector by addressing historic barriers, building parity among Black dance organizations that support and create work with differing aesthetics, and developing new organizational processes and practices for nonprofit arts organizations.

For more information about the COHI program, please visit www.iabdassociation.org/COHI.

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ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACKS IN DANCE: The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin, and assists and increases opportunities for artists in advocacy, audience development, education, funding, networking, performance, philosophical dialogue, and touring. IABD has become the Mecca for Blacks in Dance, such as administrators, artists, choreographers, dance companies, directors, educators, researchers and scholars, and those interested in artistry, Black dance issues, and performance presentations. The Association, founded in 1991, provides a network, formal newsletters, choreographer’s directory, and published papers; it is the raison d’être for the annual conference and festival. The Association also responds to and initiates dialogue around issues that impact the Black Dance Community as well as the Dance community at large. IABD has developed national prominence and allowed the Black Dance Community to come together on important issues. For more information on IABD visit iabdassociation.org.

ABOUT THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION: Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at  mellon.org.

ABOUT NONPROFIT FINANCE FUND: Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) advances missions and social progress in underserved communities through financing, consulting, partnerships, and knowledge-sharing that empower leaders, organizations, and ideas. A leading Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), NFF currently manages over $310 million. Since 1980, we have provided almost $700 million in financing and access to additional capital in support of over $2.3 billion in projects for thousands of organizations nationwide. NFF is headquartered in New York City and serves clients from five offices across the country. For more information on NFF visit  nff.org.

Class With Chris LaPlante, September 8

LIT (LaPlante’s Integrated Technique) is an evolving amalgamation of numerous techniques that explores the connectivity of the body, from a breaking approach to floor work, image and sensation-based improvisation, to exercises that warm, connect, and condition the body. LIT is inspired by Horton, Limón, qi gong, and the Alexander Technique.

Saturday, September 8 | 2:00-3:30pm
Advanced-Intermediate/Advanced-Professional

Cost: $14 or class card

Student Name:

Bio: Christopher LaPlante was born and raised in St. Paul Park, MN. After training in the University of Minnesota’s Dance Program, he danced with TU Dance, Twin Cities Ballet, Zenon Dance Company, Minnesota Opera and ARENA Dances, as well as numerous smaller projects. Chris has shown his own choreography at 9×22 Dance/Lab in Minneapolis, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Dance Program and numerous other sites in Minneapolis. While in New York, he has had the opportunity to dance with Abraham.In.Motion and a collaboration with Yoshito Sakuraba. Throughout the past four years, he has worked with Guggenheim, Pew, and United States Artists fellow Raphael Xavier. Chris has taught his LIT class throughout the east coast and at the University of Minnesota and TU Dance Center.

Adult Beginning Ballet with Tina Anderson

This ballet technique 6-week workshop emphasizes alignment, placement and somatic awareness.  The class consists of barre and center work that focuses on balance, classical line, connecting steps, and simple turns and jumps.

Tina Anderson Wallum’s 23-year performing career included principal and soloist work with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Ballet Minnesota, Ballet Arts Minnesota, Ballet of the Dolls, Savannah Ballet, The Contemporary Ballet Company, and Pennsylvania Ballet. She holds her BS from Radford University in Virginia. She has taught ballet classes for Ballet Arts Minnesota, Ballet Minnesota, Classical Ballet Academy, Chinese Dance Theater and is currently teaching at the University of Minnesota. Her current scholarly research is in Mind-Body Centering and somatics where she is devoted to creating a sense of embodiment in her students.

Tuesdays, 12:00-1:30pm

Session 1: September 4 – October 15
Session 2: October 16 – December 3 (no classes November 19-25)

Cost: $85.00 (pre-registration required)

Sessions (please select one option below) :
Student Name:

Adult Beginning Modern with Thern Anderson (Evenings)

This 6-week workshop with Thern will teach body and spacial awareness, rhythm and phrasing, ensemble dancing and injury prevention through modern dance patterns and improvisation.

Thern Anderson started dancing at the University of Minnesota and performed with Choreogram Dance Company.  She has taught to all ages and abilities in Washington, DC, Portland, OR and Minneapolis, MN.

Wednesdays, 6:00-7:30pm

Session 1: September 4 – October 15
Session 2: October 16 – December 3 (no classes November 19-25)

Cost: $85.00 (pre-registration required)

Sessions (please select one option below) :
Student Name:

 

Adult Beginning Modern with Thern Anderson (Midday)

This 6-week workshop with Thern will teach body and spacial awareness, rhythm and phrasing, ensemble dancing and injury prevention through modern dance patterns and improvisation.

Thern Anderson started dancing at the University of Minnesota and performed with Choreogram Dance Company.  She has taught to all ages and abilities in Washington, DC, Portland, OR and Minneapolis, MN.

Mondays, 12:00-1:30pm

Session 1: September 4 – October 15
Session 2: October 16 – December 3 (no classes November 19-25)

Cost: $85 (pre-registration required)

Please select one option below :
Student Name:

 

Modern/Contemporary Class with Marcus Willis, August 11

Join us as visiting teaching artist and choreographer Marcus Jarrell Willis teaches a Modern/Contemporary class at TU Dance Center. The class is a blend of familiar Horton-based technique exercises with other modern release forms during the warm-up portion. The remainder of the class is an exploration of the continuous development of my own signature language through gestural and contemporary forms of Modern Dance movement. This classes are for Advanced/Pre-Professional Level.

Saturday, August 11 | 11:00am-12:30pm

Cost: $16 (Online pre-registration suggested. Class cards accepted with addition $4 fee)

Student Name::

Marcus Jarrell Willis has worked professionally with Pascal Rioult Dance Theater (RIOULT), Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Tania Pérez-Salas Compañía de Danza and was a member of Ailey II. Mr. Willis performed with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 2008-2016 traveling around the world performing, teaching numerous masterclasses and participating through outreach in various communities both locally and abroad. He continues to teach through various outreach mediums around the world. He has presented his choreographic work in several festivals around the United States and Europe. Commissions include works created for Ailey II, TU Dance, Company Danzante, The Ailey School, University of Minnesota, Lucia Marthas Institute for the Performing Arts in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Satellite Collective, The Dance Gallery Festival Level Up Commission in 2013 and The 92ndY Dance Introduction Series. Mr. Willis is the Founder of MJ Willis Project-Inc. He produced its inaugural performance, An Evening To Remember in NYC during the spring of 2016. Recently, Project-Inc. made its Wales debut in Project-Inc. Presents: My Brother, Dear Sister. Mr. Willis was named Best Choreographer for TU Dance creation, Sensible Existence in City Pages 2018 Best of the Twin Cities. Mr. Willis will forever continue his journey and exploration in the arts striving to reach hearts all around the world.

Photo credit: Stéphane Chouan

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