© Ingrid Werthmann

Toni Pierce-Sands & Uri Sands

USA Knight Fellows

  • Dance
  • 2015

    St. Paul, MN


    Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands are founders and artistic directors of TU Dance, a Minnesota-based dance company recognized for its diverse repertory, versatile artists, and for performances that are engaging, dynamic and generous.  Modern dance, classical ballet, African based and urban vernacular movements are combined in inventive and unpredictable ways to provide opportunities to experience the connective power of dance.   In 2011, Toni and Uri expanded TU Dance with the opening of TU Dance Center and The School at TU Dance Center, realizing their vision of a welcoming hub for dance education and training in Saint Paul.  Now in its fourth year, the vibrant TU Dance Center—home to the performing company—also offers year-round educational programming for dance students of all ages and abilities.  Through Toni and Uri’s leadership in cultivating public and private funding to support access, TU Dance Center provides world-class dance training to students regardless of financial status.   Together, they have been named StarTribune’s Artists of the Year, and were recipients of a Sally Award for Initiative in the Arts, recognizing their work in developing TU Dance Center.   

    Prior to co-founding TU Dance, Minnesota native Toni Pierce-Sands performed with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Tanz Forum in Germany, Rick Odums in Paris, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she was a featured soloist in such signature pieces as Revelations and Cry . Toni has also appeared in the Twin Cities as a guest performer with Ragamala Music and Dance Theater, Shapiro & Smith Dance, VocalEssence, Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, and Robin Steihm’s Dancing People Company. Her command of the Horton Technique has led to teaching posts throughout the United States and Europe. Toni directs educational programming and teaches classes at TU Dance Center in Saint Paul and at the University of Minnesota, where she is also the Director of University Dance Theater. Toni was awarded a 2004 McKnight Artist Fellowship in Dance, and was named the Sage Awards’ 2011 Outstanding Dance Educator.  She was recently recognized with a 2013 Links Emerald Service Award for service in the arts.

    Uri Sands has received national recognition for choreography that is notable for the fusion of classical elegance with edgy contemporary action, for pulsating intensity with poetic lyricism.  A native of Miami, Uri performed as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for five years, Philadanco, Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, as a guest artist with Complexions under the direction of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, and as a principal dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre. His recent choreographic commissions include, among others, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University of California, Dance St. Louis, VocalEssence, Zenon Dance, Penumbra Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Uri was awarded a Princess Grace Award in choreography, a Joyce Foundation Award, and a McKnight Artist Fellowship in Choreography. He was named City Pages 2011 Choreographer of the Year.