The Trey McIntyre Project ignites the ICA

Polished hi-jinks
By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  March 21, 2012

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When Trey McIntyre found a base for his infant company in Boise, Idaho, four years ago, eyebrows lifted in the dance world. McIntyre already had a reputation as a contemporary choreographer, but why was he settling down way out in the mountain West? It turned out to be a shrewd move. In Boise, the Trey McIntyre Project became an extension of McIntyre's own upbeat, open personality, taking every opportunity to cultivate a friendly image and a tuned-in audience. With its extensive touring, the company brings back national attention to Boise.

The three dances that CRASHarts brought to the ICA last weekend showed off the populist style that McIntyre and his nine dancers have perfected. Although set to different varieties of pop music and jazz, the dances looked very much alike to me. McIntyre doesn't go in for big choreographic designs, themes, or spatial patterns. He picks strong musical backups to propel the movement and give it a framework in time, and movement supersedes any musical style or meaning.

Take the first part of Bad Winter, a brand new solo for Chanel DaSilva. Dressed in a white tailcoat over grey bandeau and black mini-shorts, she strides forward in a slot of bright light, proud as a runway star. Then she rips into a dance of leaps, skids, tumbling, and fast changes of direction. Sometimes she seems to be wrestling with her coat. The music is "Pennies from Heaven" recorded by the 1930s balladeer Arthur Tracy, but DaSilva's dance ignores its sentiment.

After this, Lauren Edson and Travis Walker do a tense, feisty duet to electro-jazz songs by the British group Cinematic Orchestra. Their encounter subsides as they sit back to back on the floor. Staying in contact, Edson somehow wrangles Walker's T-shirt off him and onto herself. This doesn't resolve the relationship, though. Edson pushes at Walker but he doesn't respond. Finally she takes the shirt off, rolls it up, and sticks it under his arm. He "dies," rolling over into a crooked position on the ground. She stands above him, her arms lifted and floating like wings.

I didn't know whether to take this as deep metaphor, but the evening's formal movement displays were repeatedly spiced with enigmatic gestures and incongruous insertions. In The Sweeter End, to blues and stomps by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a woman in a black flapper dress (Annali Rose) Charlestons through a crowd of denim-clad urchins. Later in that dance, a man dances with a prop that looks like the stand for a small table fixed to an umbrella handle.

Blue Until June begins and ends with seven of the eight dancers under a blanket of thick brown material that covers the whole stage. As the lights come up, we see a woman (Edson) facing upstage, with the living blanket draped over her arms. The blanket soon rolls away and Edson dances a whirling, leaping solo on pointe, her arms thrashing and flailing in some kind of struggle, accompanied by the first of several bluesy-torchy Etta James songs. The other dancers arrive and leave, dancing in duets and small groups.

What's consistent in all of TMP's work is the high-intensity dancing, a mix of ballet spins, lifts and leaps, thrusting arms and legs, sudden changes of direction and body shape, and unexpected robotic poses. The dancers fly through all this with utmost precision and aplomb. They seem imperturbable, even impersonal, as they wrangle each other through gymnastic caresses and camaraderie, finely calibrated clashes and dazzling solos. Only in an encore, after bringing the audience along to cheering appreciation, did they let loose with wild and joyous dancing. ^

  Topics: Dance , Dance, Trey McIntyre, art features
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