TU Dance celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday evening with a daring performance in front of a full house at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.
The troupe, founded by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, has developed into an impressive entity complete with its own school in St. Paul. And Sands' choreography only continues to grow in its ability to fascinate, particularly with the world premiere of "Hikari" and the company debut of "One" (2013).
Hawaiian print artist Hiroki Morinoue's influence on "Hikari" is immediately clear. His stunning backdrop and side wing curtains create a diaphanous three-dimensional effect, allowing the dancers to dwell within a world of animated vibrancy propelled by Mike Sheridan's insistent score. Tulle & Dye's elegant white costumes and Carolyn Wong's ethereal lighting design complete the powerful visual scene.
In recent years, Sands has infused his choreography with a futuristic sensibility, and "Hikari" reveals yet another exciting aspect of this perspective. The dancing is sharp as can be, but any edginess is tempered with a sense of the unexpected. The performers draw upon their inner selves to bring Sands' movement to life, which makes for an immersive experience, particularly as interpreted by Berit Ahlgren, who gathers energy around her like a cyclone. Here's hoping that TU brings "Hikari" back soon, as it deserves multiple viewings.
Sands created "One" for Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company in St. Louis. It honors Henrietta Lacks, an African-American tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge and used to further several important medical advances.
Her story provokes questions of ethics and efficacy, which Sands represents through the constant shaking arms of the eight women dancers — they are serving, genuflecting, grieving. They also flock together, like cells viewed under a microscope, but their restlessness reveals the troubling facts beneath Lacks' story.
Alanna Morris-Van Tassel is the beating heart of this work. Her dancing pierces with emotional expressiveness. "One" ends under a gentle shower of silvery glitter — like stars falling to Earth. Beautiful.
The program opened with a lush performance by Sands and Laurel Keen of the "Twin Cities" duet from Alvin Ailey's 1970 work "The River." And 2003's "Lady" featured Pierce-Sands and Sands doing what they do best: leading their dynamic company on a rhythmic journey.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.