You can tell a lot about a company by how they run together. If the steps are out of sync or tentative, the execution of the choreography probably is as well. When The Trey McIntyre Project runs across the stage it is powerful. They have the drive of a pack of wolves and are as precise as a school of fish. The strides aren’t thrown away. They have meaning and are a cohesive act that represents the dancers are united in this experience.
They had me at Etta. The first piece, Blue Until June, was a series danced to the masterful mellow crooning of Etta James. The opening image, a naked back surrounded by mountains of brown fabric spanning the length of the stage, was a commanding way to start the show. As the lights go up we realize it is a muscular female form, Lauren Edson, pushing the shadows around the landscape of her skin. The fabric rolls away to reveal a hard and strong interpretation of the aggressive choreography, which was in stark contrast to the music. The entire company, unexpectedly, rolls out of the yardage and with equal precision and strength the love stories unfold.
The movement is athletic. We see flicks of legs, pirouettes to falls, donkey kicks to the hands, legs à la seconde and flexed feet and hinges en pointe that take them all the way to the floor. Images of a creative track and field event kept dancing in my head, a choreographic Olympic games, if you will.
You have to hand it to the dance world to be in-discriminatory and unapologetic about love. Trey McIntyre presents us with a touching male duet. This is a tale of broken hearts as one dancer pushes the other, wanting but not having. The rejected dancer walks away on his heels, as though something is keeping him from leaving. There is a strong thick bond between the two. The former ultimately walking off stage hand in hand with an unsuspecting female partner.
The sign of a fine choreographer is to be able to tell these timeless stories in a non-literal fashion. There is no pantomime or words. The vignettes are told through complicated and well-crafted movement and a pure real time connection between the performers.
The rest of the concert was consistently strong. Bad Winter is piece in 2 parts. The first solo is a riveting show by Chanel DaSilva to the old timey rendition of Pennies from Heaven. DaSilva’s ensemble work in the first piece was good, but it didn’t prepare me for what an intense soloist she is. I was with her for every rippling battement to fetal position.
The solo leads into the highlight of the evening, a duet between Travis Walker and Edson. To understand dance you have to comprehend that it is not about the steps strung together. The magic happens in the fractions of time in between the steps. It is the choreography within the choreography. McIntyre understands this and he is smart enough to have surrounded himself with a company of performers who understand this as well. There was no better example than this duet. They took my breath away. My favorite moments were the silent ones.
The last piece of the evening, The Sweeter End, was upbeat. The costumes seemed to represent couples from different eras such as the flapper 20’s, London punk 80’s, deep south who-knows-when and urban today. If I were to say anything constructively critical at all, it would be to rethink the costumes. I don’t think they helped the story along and took away from the brilliant performances happening underneath. And the dancing was exceptional. Honestly, I would love to see it again with everyone in just jeans and t-shirts.
At the Rialto on Saturday, March 10th, 2012, the first thing written on the poster for this company was Ballet. Trey McIntyre is a contemporary ballet choreographer at best. I would even challenge that label to a full- fledged modern artist. Although the technique is definitely there, just because pointe shoes are worn doesn’t mean that ballet is what’s happening. But I will tell you what is happening. This Company has it going on… from fierce technique, to surprising choreography, to a professional presence and connection that resonates throughout the proscenium. So, I think, using the word Ballet is misleading and they are doing themselves a bit of an injustice. Energy, Passion and Dance would be a better fit. This Dancer With An Attitude gives them a giant thumbs up.