it the hard way, freelance choreographer Trey McIntyre has
put together what he calls a “pick-up ballet company,” to
dance his growing repertory. The 11 members of the Trey McIntyre
Project come from companies west of the Mississippi that McIntyre’s
been working with over the past few years: Oregon Ballet Theatre,
Washington Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet from Los Angeles,
and Ballet Memphis.
return concert at Jacob’s Pillow last Saturday (they debuted
here last summer), the Project were at their best in the East
Coast premiere of Go Out (2006), a stoic, though manic,
dance of death set to Appalachian songs by the Clinch Mountain
Boys, the Stanley Brothers, and various mountain preachers
and their congregations.
Out set an authentic community before us, one with its
strong emotions held in check; these emotions are expressed
only in the screeching fiddle, the high lonesome singing,
and the herky-jerky dancing, indirect as a mountain stream
winding its way between the rocks.
jerking, constrained moves and their stony expressions fed
into the agonized preaching of Rev. Crenshaw and his congregation,
who succumbed to a group possession (“be real in your soul!”)
which the dancers enacted, and the wake-like section “I Wonder
Will We Meet Again” in which, one by one, the men in plaid
shirts and jeans and the women in deliberately colorless cotton
dresses stepped forward to solo before a dead congregant.
The living men, stiff as the corpse, lifted him and carried
him out to the Lord, leaving two couples behind to do a wild
dance to the angry love ballad, “Little Maggie.”
Roper, an incongruous figure in a red silk gown pulled up
at the front to show her ballet legs and toe shoes, danced
silently through the proceedings, entering and exiting at
will, dancing to a terrifying lullaby with Dawn Fay as a dying
child, or scaring all the folks at a country play-party, just
by her presence.
ensemble section, “The Last Words of Copernicus,” the fabulous
Jonathan Dummar skipped out as Roper’s puppet. Wearing a full-face
mask, Dummar did a wild, randy demon’s dance, jerky and flat-footed,
like the Appalachian limberjack dolls that leap and buck on
a board set between the toymaker’s knees. His dance scared
everyone around him, yet drew them to him.
is death, or maybe the Devil, or both in one form. If we doubted
this at first, we got it for sure in the final “O Death,”
to Ralph Stanley’s horror-driven song. John Michael Schert
struggled with Roper, who stood over him, her legs wide, wrestled
with him, and watched him as he fell. She rocked him, covered
him with her voluminous skirt, and rode his shoulders as he
tried to rise. At last, he fell on his back, and, cold and
dead, slid from beneath her skirt.
his choreography, McIntyre favors snap-off, sudden moves:
jerks, jabs, quick touches. His dances generally don’t flow;
they thrust. This worked best in Go Out, where the
moves were appropriate to the music and to the hard scrabble
Appalachian community the choreographer brought into being.
style seemed arbitrary in Just (2006), a dance for
two couples originally made for the Oregon Ballet Theatre
and set to unbearable music by Henry Cowell. The dancers,
in very brief white costumes, did fast, twisty moves that
showed a lot of muscle and strong ballet technique, but left
dance, Like a Samba, made in 1997 for the Oregon Ballet
Theatre, was a pleasing showpiece, a display of “ballet meets
ballroom.” Set to smooth bossa nova songs of Antonio Carlos
Jobim, it played the dancers’ tall, lean ballet bodies in
combinations of ballet lifts and torso thrusts. Dancers would
step out with big leg extensions and lead with their chests
to this insinuating music.
combined aggressive partnering with lots of confidence. The
men were forward and the women were independent, especially,
of course, “The Girl from Ipanema,” who twisted her way right
out of the men’s grasp, leaving them stunned.
from the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet, has an unballetic body,
comparatively short and stocky, but he dances like lightning.
In Samba, he slashed the air with angled arms, wild
jumps, and big acrobatics, punctuated by hesitations, pushes
and sudden freeze frame stops. You can’t take your eyes off
can keep this group together—they’re all on leave from their
home companies for the Project’s tour—dancegoers can look
forward to more new work that’s made, not just for their individual
strengths, but, like Go Out, dances that show what
they can do as an ensemble.