STRANGE CLIMATE Despite high-minded program notes, The Sun Road delivered more entertainment than enlightenment.
The most substantial item in the assortment of dances by the Trey McIntyre Project last weekend was an oddly proportioned 20-minute meditation on climate change and Glacier National Park. McIntyre, whose company appeared at the ICA as part of the CRASHarts series, has gotten a lot of press exposure as an up-and-coming choreographer with serious ideas. His dances look more entertaining than tough-minded.
By the end of Like a Samba (1997), the first piece on the program, McIntyre had pretty much laid out his entire stock of choreographic ingredients. Nostalgic bossa nova tracks by Astrud Gilberto accompanied the dance, but there was no samba in sight, and no nostalgia, either. Each of the five dancers did a personalized snapshot at the beginning; then they danced duets and solos in their special flavors.
In a trio called (serious), Jason Hartley danced his acrobatic moves with more intensity than Samba's softer-edged men (Brett Perry, John Michael Schert, and Dylan G-Bowley), and Chanel DaSilva didn't dance on pointe, as had Ilana Goldman and Annali Rose. But I never felt anything personal going on with the dancers, or between them, under the relentlessly extroverted thrust of the choreography.
McIntyre's method is to put together move after move, with the intent of pleasing the audience. Just to make sure, whenever the dancers bring off an especially tricky stunt, they snap their heads audience-ward — it doesn't matter whether they're upside-down or wrapped around their partner's leg — and flash a big smile. No phrase leads into another phrase or develops into something deeper. No relationship goes beyond a skimming reference to some contiguous lyric or concept.
Perry, Hartley, and DaSilva, dressed alike in shirts and pants in (serious), did individually crafted solos, but the three of them didn't add up to anything more than three individuals ganging together. Henry Cowell's trios for violin, cello, and piano offered interesting resonances that went unexplored — a nostalgia for the 19th century's lyricism, some scurrying modern underpinnings, and the way the instruments often competed in different keys.
Before intermission, G-Bowley, Rose, and Lauren Edsen did an embarrassing piece with balloons titled Shape.
The Sun Road, McIntyre's Glacier Park piece, prompted some high-minded program-note musings from the choreographer. Its strongest images came from a film that wasn't credited in the program — McIntyre's work, I assume. Against the gorgeous vistas, forests, and meadows of Glacier National Park, the company's four men embark on an ill-fated Outward Bound expedition.
Dressed in dark suits and ties with red cummerbunds, they prowl through dense woods, wrestle one another along a stony embankment, lean into a gale as they trudge along a high ridge. I thought of them as preppies going natural without a clue how to do it, or any idea how to help one another through it. The camera returns every once in a while to glance at a naked man abandoned in the snow, dead or stoned on sensation.
Unseen by the preppies, DaSilva would appear, in her dark skin and crimson evening gown, moving slowly, vividly, against the panoramic landscape, cutting an ancient groove in the snow. Did she give them the long red chiffon scarf that they were waving? Were they calling for help? Was that insistent drum beat a message from the native spirits?