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Zenon and TU Dance: See them both

Theaters on both sides of the river will be busy this weekend presenting the Twin Cities’ two most popular, dynamic modern-dance troupes: Zenon Dance Company (in Minneapolis) and TU Dance (in St. Paul).

Theaters on both sides of the river will be busy this weekend presenting the Twin Cities’ two most popular, dynamic modern-dance troupes: Zenon Dance Company (in Minneapolis) and TU Dance (in St. Paul). For dance aficionados, seeing two different performances in one weekend is no big deal. But for occasional dancegoers — you know, the ones who email asking for advice on which one or two dance shows to see this season — some scheduling is in order: TU this weekend, Zenon the next (if you’re not leaving town over the holiday). In other words, plan on seeing both.

Let’s begin with Zenon, as it starts first and has the longer run (two weekends). The 26-year-old company has assembled a vast repertory of modern, jazz and postmodern dance works commissioned from choreographers around the world — and from local talent that continues with two premieres on this concert program.

Twin Cities choreographer Wynn Fricke, who makes earthy primal works that draw on the dancers’ well-honed physicality, created “The Shape of Wind,” a quartet set to an original score performed live by percussion maestro Peter O’Gorman. In rehearsal about a month ago, the choreography indicated lots of rolling and dropping, shape shifting and swirling, and head snaps and directional switches to O’Gorman’s beat-box mouth percussion.

Fusion jazz work
Another Twin Cities choreographer, Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner, has made a jazz work “Muévete (Move It),” inspired by Reggaetone and Latin hip-hop. It’s an ensemble work that reportedly fuses Broadway-style jazz dance, Latin social dance and the choreographer’s singular take on contemporary jazz.

Dancers of the Zenon Dance Company.
Dancers of the Zenon Dance Company.

Can’t make to New York this winter? Zenon brings the city to you, with the local premiere of New York choreographer Andrea Miller’s “Booba” (“doll” in Hebrew), set to music by Balkan Beat Box. Miller’s one of Zenon artist director Linda Z. Andrews’ newest finds — the professional company is internationally known for commissioning work from hot new talent, and Miller is fast becoming recognized for her playful, rhythmic choreographic investigations of contemporary life.

Also on the program are two audience and critical favorites by New York choreographers. Doug Varone’s “Of the Earth Far Below” has an intense musicality (it’s set to Steve Reich’s “Triple Quartet for Strings”). The dancers resemble kinetic particles as they flow through the momentum of the music’s driving rhythms with extensions and suspensions. Conversely, Keely Garfield’s clever duet “Scent of Mental Love” is a comic delight with, as I recall from last year, plenty of laugh-out-loud naughty bits.

In short, during one two-hour Zenon concert, expect to experience an array of dance pieces from an eclectic selection of choreographers.

‘High-heel Blues,’ a slyly humorous duet
TU Dance, created by partners Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, features Sands’ choreography, performed by a company of seemingly effortless generosity, physical energy and formal beauty. This show includes “High-Heel Blues,” an altogether enticing and slyly humorous duet usually performed by Sands and Pierce-Sands. His large-ensemble work “Isms” is on the docket, a crowd pleaser (i.e., that’s code for it gives me a headache) that plays to the audience with aerobic physicality, a flower-power aesthetic and shimmy-shake disco moves set to music by Rare Earth.

Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands of TU Dance.
Photo by Ingrid Werthmann
Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands of TU Dance.

Also on the program is a new work, titled “Vata,” the first in a series of pieces Sands has planned, which are abstractly based on the Hindu “Ayurveda” or “life philosophy.” The company reprises “Tearing” as well, a work commissioned through the new Princess Grace Award in Choreography (Sands was the first choreographer to win the award) that showcases the company’s aesthetic grace and physical prowess through vignettes of enduring motion, urgent action and frisky playfulness.

What: Zenon Dance Company
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 30
Where: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. South, Minneapolis
Tickets: $29
Box Office: (612) 340-1725

What: TU Dance
When: 8 p.m. Fri-Sat, 2 p.m. Sun
Where: O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, College of St. Catherine, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
Tickets: $16-$27
Box Office: (651) 989-5151