Step into Trey McIntyre’s world
Ryan Summerlin March 25, 2014
When the Trey McIntyre Project performs at the Eccles Center on Saturday, audiences can expect some theatrical, but technically challenging, contemporary dance.
The company will present two works — "The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction" and "Mercury Half-Life," both created by Artistic Director Trey McIntyre.
"These two pieces in the program and I think they show the progression of what I have been able to do as a choreographer," McIntyre told The Park Record during a telephone interview from his office in Boise, Idaho. "One is a narrative and the other is a big and showy piece with some great music."
"The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction," which was choreographed last winter, is based on the illustrations and stories of the late Edward Gorey, whose blend of innocence and macabre appeared in publications such as the New Yorker.
"I had the great fortune of getting access to those works and his estate has been very gracious in allowing me to use his source material for the piece," McIntyre said. "His illustrations somehow straddle the line between adorable and horrible. There is something tantalizing about them."
"The Vinegar Works" is the first straightforward narrative that McIntyre has done with his company.
"It was an incredibly challenging project, and I think that’s the reason why I was drawn to it," he said, laughing. "His work is surreal and at times nonsensical. So to take an audience through a progression of those types of events was a challenge. But it was fun. I loved working on it and very proud of the piece."
The costumes and sets were created by Michael Curry, of Michael Curry Designs, the company who designed the masks and puppets for "The Lion King" on Broadway and the puppets used in the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Olympics.
"Michael built these very beautiful set pieces for the work," McIntyre said. " I’ve worked with him many times in the past and I know how his mind works, and it was fun, a fun challenge."
"Mercury Half-Life" is a colorful work that is done to the music of Queen.
"I’m interested in working with the music of iconic pop artists and Queen has been on the back-burner for quite a while," McIntyre said. "The time came to use that music when I wanted to create a piece that would serve as a closer.
"I don’t usually have an agenda when it comes to getting the audience to react to a piece," he said. "I made an exception, because I thought exploring the feeling you get when you leave the theater after a big production was worthwhile."
The Trey McIntyre Project rose from humble beginnings as a summer pick-up dance group, and officially premiered as a full-fledged dance company at the Vail International Dance Festival in 2005.
Since 2008 it has called Boise, Idaho, its home and has toured all around the world.
McIntyre, after cutting his teeth at a small studio in Wichita, Kansas, called The Dance Center, trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Houston Ballet Academy.
He served as the choreographic associate of the Houston Ballet in the mid-1990s and made a name as a freelance choreographer, before starting his own company.
"I finally hit a ceiling in terms of how I could progress by working with strangers," McIntyre said. "I had amazing experiences working with companies all around the world, but I craved working with my own dancers."
Another thing he noticed as a freelance choreographer was the friction within the companies.
"Also, I didn’t like that people would go to see dance just because it’s culture and good for you," he said. "That’s kind of like taking medicine. So I wanted to see if I could do it differently."
His main goal was to experiment and, more importantly, "find a good reason why dance companies exist in an important and authentic way," McIntyre said.
One of the early defining moments in doing that was to move to a community like Boise.
"I think everyone expected, because of the success of the company that we would move to New York," he said. "I had a hard time justifying that choice, because New York is over served for dance and the rest of the country is not. So it seemed like an American and pioneering idea to go to a community and see if we could become a part of the fabric of those people’s lives."
Last year, the Trey McIntyre Project expanded its artistic vision and crowd sourced funds for a documentary film called "Ma Maison."
"I’ve never been just focused on dance," he said. "That just happened to be the language and vocabulary I had the opportunity to master. We’ve always been a nimble organization and the company has given me the opportunity to explore other artistic expressions more fully."
That said, the company is currently in a transitional period, McIntyre confided.
"This is going to be the final year as a full-time dance company," he said. "I’ll still continue to do dance projects, but we’re downsizing and moving into an incubation period.
"We want to perfect these different forms and find ways the company can best support them," McIntyre said. "Afterwards, we may launch something big scale again, but I don’t want to take any giant steps until I know we can do it well. We’ll see what comes out of this great experimental period."
McIntyre said he’s lucky that he creates art for a living.
"To explore creatively is to live on a different psychological plane, which is a much truer version of ourselves," he said. "I have the great fortune to live directly in my self-conscious for the better part of the day. As I get older, I feel the benefit as a human being and spiritual person is endless and will continue to grow."
The Trey McIntyre Project will perform at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $69 and are available by visiting www.ecclescenter.org.