The TU dancers get into formation for a thrilling new piece by Uri Sands called “No One Will See,” which premiered at the Cowles Center this weekend.

The visceral work, performed by the company dancers as well as students from the University of Minnesota Dance Department, taps into a guttural force that startles in its potency.

The performers in the work wear black hats with veils hanging over their faces, creating an alien look, as designed by Shannon Gauer and Toni Pierce-Sands. The score, with music by Vladimir Martynov, Mike Sheridan and Antony and the Johnsons, also propels the piece into extraordinary realms.

After a prolonged opening section where the dancers wander around the darkly lit stage embracing one another, they form a straight line across the stage, as the tiniest ripple of movement flows from one side of the line to the other before they scurry forward as one organism.

The piece explodes into a Dionysian rite, the dancers summoning energy out of the ground in a wild ritual. In a later section, members of the core group of dancers become like children, erupting in play, their blindness facilitating the expansiveness of their imagination. The piece concludes with a riveting duet of two dancers becoming one creature, ultimately destroying itself in a harrowing final moment.

The piece contrasts starkly with Sands’ other work presented at the Cowles, “Veneers,” from 2006, which, like “No One Will See,” conjures a spirituality, but one that is much more elevated and ethereal than the later work’s raw explosion.

The spirituality in “Veneers” has an ecclesiastical quality. With stark dancing accompanied by classical strings and choral music, the dancers suffocate within the rigidity of the confined movement as they search for validation from outside of themselves.

Created 10 years apart from each other, the two works shown together display the incredible trajectory Sands’ choreography has taken in that time. Where the earlier work embraces a classical aesthetic and extremely structured movement, in his newest work he all but abandons formal modes, instead finding a quality that’s drawn from ancestral instinct.

Besides Sands’ two pieces, TU also presented a world premiere of “Candle,” by guest choreographer Kyle Abraham. The intimate piece, which moves in and out of solo and duet forms, showcases the incredible talent of the TU dancers, who besides their jaw-dropping athleticism, evoke lyrical grace and intense connection with one another.

 

Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.