TU Dance rings in new season with a nod to the past

Dancers strike a pose as Ernie Banks’ “The Graduate” looms in the background

Minnesota-based TU Dance opened its 15th anniversary season in grand fashion with a one-night-only performance as part of the Ordway’s Music & Movement Series. A full house of attendees witnessed unique artistic expressions and messages via a fusion of music, dance and visual artwork.

Artistic directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands are the founders who put the T-(Toni) and the U-(Uri) in TU Dance. The creative husband-and-wife duo are former world renowned professional dancers with the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater in New York.

The Sat., Oct. 27 performance included the world premiere of Step into Tomorrow, a new retrospective piece that reflects on the company’s history of thought-provoking works over the years. Some of the work highlighted included Salve (2017), which was originally commissioned by Ballet Memphis and set to the music of Gavin Bryars, and With Love, Ordway’s first commission for TU Dance in 2011.

With Love was inspired by the paintings of the late African American artist Ernie Barnes and choreographed by Uri Sands, with music by the late, legendary Donny Hathaway. Barnes’ work was popularized by the hit ’70s show Good Times, where his paintings were often featured. He was well known for his unique painting style of elongation and movement. This is an ideal match for the many dance styles performed by the TU dancers, which included African-based, modern dance, classical ballet and urban vernacular movements.

”Destination Unknown” featuring MerSadies McCoy James L. Stroud Jr/MSR News

During their performance, eight paintings by Barnes were displayed on a backdrop. After the dancing stopped, a dancer or dancers would imitate the painting in a pose to end the routine.

The MSR spoke with audience member Joelle Purvis Allen about her favorite parts of the performance. “For me, without a doubt, it was the tribute to Ernie Barnes and being able to see his art pieces come to life,”  she said. “Too many artists of color are left unsung. So it was really nice to see one art form bring life to another art form.”

After the show, the audience was invited to meet the TU Dance artistic directors, 11 company members and staff for a 20 minute Q&A and meet and mingle.

For more information about the TU Dance Center, visit www.tudance.org or call 651-605-1925.