Toni Pierce-Sands leading class at TU Dance
When Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands noticed a lack of racial diversity among dancers in Minneapolis-St. Paul, they took action. In 2011, the former Ailey dancers founded TU Dance, where they’ve been providing pre-professional dance education to students in the Twin Cities, regardless of their background or financial situation.
In 2013, we put them on the cover of Dance Teacher (read that story here). Today, Minnesota Public Radio News reported TU Dance has just finished construction on a second studio, so they now have space for the professional company to rehearse while students take class. Sixty percent of their current 150 students are people of color, and more than half receive financial assistance, whether in the form of dance clothes, transportation to the studio or snacks between classes. Pierce-Sands says their goal is to remove barriers between children and access to a high-quality dance education. Sands points out that this approach benefits not just the children, but the dance world as a whole. “If we’re striving for excellence as a dance community,” he says, “It would be in our best interest to ensure that we have access to the best possible potential that’s out there.” This summer, their students are attending programs at the Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Ailey School.
Photo by Ingrid Werthmann