November 8, 2018 Abdo Sayegh Rodriguez

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.

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