Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands bring together a wide array of dancers, genres and messages

by Steven Snyder

Dance is usually about the quest for precision and uniformity, for an exact interpretation of an artistic vision.

But this weekend, another vision takes the Twin Cities by storm – a work that embraces dancers of different backgrounds and different styles, encouraging instead a collaboration of diversity and distinction.

It is presented by TU dance, the area’s newest dance company, founded by acclaimed choreographer Uri Sands and his wife, dancer and University instructor Toni Pierce-Sands.

Labeled simply as their opening concert, the event marks the culmination of TU Dance’s Space TU Embrace project that started two years ago. Its goal: To celebrate a diverse variety of dancers, incorporating their varied techniques and styles in a collection of similarly diverse dance pieces.

Sands said the first step in the project, completed last year, sought to identify interest in the Twin Cities arts community for such a dance company.

“Space TU Embrace was initially done just to assess the community and see if it was ready to provide opportunities for these phenomenal artists to work during the time that was normally a layoff,” he said.

With most dance companies currently between seasons, Sands and Pierce-Sands seized the opportunity to invite artists from across the country to the Twin Cities, bringing them together for an unlikely fusion of talent and style.

“They’re brilliant and confident and open to what else they can learn, whether it be from their work or other dancers,” Pierce-Sands said.

Sands and Pierce-Sands met each other, and some of these artists, through the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

With a diverse group of dancers, from those specializing in jazz techniques to those focusing on classical and modern styles, Sands said this debut concert features four Minnesota premieres of his work and two world premieres.

One notable piece deals with the “tones” of a lake – both the tone of the water’s surface and the shifting skin tones surrounding a northern Minnesota lake during the time of integration.

The concert opens with a work introducing not only the evening but the company itself. Alternating in intensity, dance styles, formations and genres, this first piece is both a preview and celebration of what’s to come.

At a recent rehearsal, this mix of diverse talent and choreography felt organic and alive, as if anything might – and likely will – happen.

And both Sands and Pierce-Sands said they want this collaboration to go beyond the stage.

“What we’re trying to do here is create this dance company and then also this dance school,” Sands said. “And provide opportunities for audience members, for aspiring artists (and) for students to experience dance and to view dance and their own lives in a different way through the eyes of this art form.”

Pierce-Sands said she doesn’t care about the risks inherent to starting a new company.

“The risk factor and all that stuff exists but we have nothing to lose. We only have to gain or share, and if it doesn’t work then we move on,” she said.