A former dancer alleging the co-founder of TU Dance sexually assaulted her has reached a settlement with the St. Paul dance company.
TU Dance and the 32-year-old St. Paul woman, who spoke to the Star Tribune on the condition of anonymity, both confirmed Friday that they had agreed on an undisclosed amount.
In October, the woman served a member of the nonprofit’s board with a lawsuit, alleging co-founder Uri Sands “sexually exploited” her between 2015 and 2017. The lawsuit also alleged the company was negligent in the supervision of Sands, 46, who resigned at the end of December.
She retained lawyer Jeff Anderson, whose firm has represented sexual assault survivors from the Children’s Theatre Company and local Catholic Church dioceses, who said Sands had “nonconsensual sexual intercourse” with the former dancer.
Sands’ lawyer, Sara McGrane, who also represents TU Dance, said Friday that Sands and the dance company deny all allegations.
Sands started TU Dance with his wife, Toni Pierce-Sands, in 2004.
Since his resignation, McGrane said TU Dance hired an independent third-party investigator to speak with all current dancers and some former dancers, hired a human resources director, and conducted mandatory respectful workplace and anti-discrimination and harassment training for all dancers, all employees and all board members.
In 2017, three other women anonymously reported complaints about Sands to the board.
After that, TU Dance required Sands to complete counseling and therapy and prohibited him from traveling alone with female dancers.
The company also reviewed its sexual misconduct policy, McGrane said, adding that “there’s been no alleged wrongdoing by Mr. Sands or anybody else after 2017.”
She said Sands denies any inappropriate conduct with the three other former dancers from the 2017 complaint.
“Mr. Sands believed that he had consensual, adult relationships with those individuals,” McGrane said.
“He’s since learned that those individuals don’t believe that they were consensual given that he was in a position of authority. And for that he is sorry.”
The former dancer who reached a settlement this week said she pursued the case so “myself and the women’s stories would be taken seriously.”
Sands wasn’t available for comment Friday.
Since Sands resigned, folk band Bon Iver canceled all 2020 performances of a collaboration with TU Dance called “Come Through.”
Pierce-Sands and choreographer and former TU Dance dancer Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, the new interim artistic associate, are now leading the dance company.
“They are hopeful that these types of allegations are behind them and they are just focused on the terrific company members that they have and the school,” McGrane said of TU, which has 13 company dancers and has worked with 4,000 students since 2011.
“We’re doing our best to make sure that all people who support TU Dance understand that it’s a new direction, we’ve got a new focus.”