TU Dance's performance at the O'Shaughnessy this past weekend wasn't quite as flashy as the company's collaboration with Bon Iver, which has kept the company busy touring around the country since the 2018. It also wasn't as sublime as its spring performance of works by Alvin Ailey and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. But the concert did offer a couple of strong works never before seen in Minneapolis.
"Something Amber," originally commissioned by Alonzo King Lines Ballet Training Program, began the program and was the highlight of the night. It began in darkness to the sound of strings playing a long, sustained note. As the lights gradually lit the ensemble, the dancers moved like seaweed. Their arms floated above them, their bodies fluidly rising and falling.
Lush and alive, the work, which was presented by TU for the first time, had a sensorial quality, while Vladimir Martynov's gorgeous neoclassical music provided the ghostly score.
The second piece in the program, "Clear as Tear Water," originally was created by Ronald K. Brown for TU Co-Artistic Director Toni Pierce-Sands, who danced in its premiere in 2005. It's a juicy solo, and Taylor Collier performed the piece with fortitude. There were flashes of traumatic history in the work: a slave with her arms tied behind her back, for instance. In another moment, a woman hunched over in backbreaking labor. We also see the central character exude power and strength, buoyed by those that came before her. There was a sense of renewal, even rebirth, particularly in its final moments, when Collier was doused with a stream of water, baptized in water and light.
"Salve," commissioned for Ballet Memphis in 2017, featured a church pew as a central set piece and began with the dancers one by one prostrating themselves on the floor. Eventually, they discovered healing in the space. It's set to Gavin Bryars' "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet," which loops a recording of an unknown homeless man singing with increasing harmonies of strings and brass.
The work was moving, even if you wanted to cry mercy to make the song stop repeating over and over by the end. There was an odd choice in costumes — the women's diaphanous, light-colored dresses were paired with black socks, which was a rather strange look.
The program concluded with the company premiere of "Tracks," originally commissioned by Alvin Ailey II in 2018. With glitter and shimmying shoulders, the piece paired revelry with gravitas.
Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities critic and arts journalist.