Uri Sands and Toni-Pierce Sands of TU Dance probably didn't anticipate January weather when they asked Icelandic choreographer Katrín Hall to create a world premiere for their fall season, but the frozen landscape outside The O'Shaughnessy in St. Paul on Friday night set a suitable tone for "Andrými."
This stark work, set against projected images of arctic places, has a remote sort of beauty to it, as if transported from an ice cave to thaw out on stage.
Hall juxtaposes movement qualities in "Andrými." Over the course of time, locked limbs loosen and bodies become pliable, melting into the floor or one another. The quicksilver dancers cultivate a volatile relationship — at times brittle and snappish, but also supportive — as if they are a hearty gang of survivors trying to negotiate a harsh environment.
But even as the work tends toward introspection, it doesn't alienate or depress. Instead "Andrými" — which is an Icelandic word referring to space and breath — places the human experience within the bigger context of nature itself. We are small beings who nonetheless rail against larger obstacles, either inside ourselves or in the world around us. It's a quiet sort of rage, and yet when unleashed can cause an avalanche of emotions. And that is Hall's purpose, to break apart what is frozen to find the warmth within.
The program also featured two TU repertory favorites, both choreographed by Sands. "One" (2013), which was inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks (the unwitting source for human cells used in medical research), is among the best works in recent years from a local artist. Performed by eight women, the piece is a poignant meditation on loss and possibility. It is passionate, sorrowful and flat-out beautiful. "High Heel Blues" (2005) is a playful duet about loving what hurts you. Impressive company apprentice Taylor Collier and recent Sage Award winner Duncan Schultz delivered a high-spirited performance.
Dwight Rhoden's "If and Or" (2013) kicked off the evening. "The detail is in the pattern" is a recurring line in the score, and it describes the constantly shifting relationships onstage. It's a dance about precision and for that reason seems more like an exercise in technique, but at the same time choreographers like Merce Cunningham have shown us that there are always small rebellions within even the most formal structures.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.