SURRENDER: The idea was plausible; the execution was not.
Are we in the midst of a dance boom? You’d have to think so from the way hot-shot choreographers are going out and forming their own companies. The latest is 38-year-old Trey McIntyre, who debuted his Trey McIntyre Project, a summer endeavor with pick-up dancers, at Jacob’s Pillow in 2005. Now the Trey McIntyre Project is going full-time, with a year-round complement of 10 dancers (among them former Boston Ballet soloist Lia Cirio and former Boston Ballet II member Sam Shapiro) and a permanent base in Boise, Idaho. After a White Oak residency in Florida last month, McIntyre brought his Project back to the Pillow for a Northeast debut that offered two world premieres, Surrender and Leatherwing Bat, alongside his 2003 piece The Reassuring Effects (Of Form and Poetry). I wish I could say I found the form and the poetry of this new company reassuring.
Surrender’s is an obvious but workable opposites-attract conceit, with Chanel DaSilva as the girl in the cerise and black party dress and Jason Hartley as the guy in the blue wrestling singlet with white trim and red helmet and kneepads (USA!? USA!?). She starts gyrating to Grand Funk Railroad’s version of “The Loco-Motion”; he enters and lunges awkwardly at her; she doesn’t even look surprised. There are all the expected advances and retreats, flingings and swingings; she keeps pulling her hand away. The music shifts into the “Dance of the Mirlitons” from act two of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker — cute, but neither dancer tries to do anything balletic, or silly. Then — surprise! — she kicks off her heels and he doffs his helmet and we get, without apparent irony, Regina Spektor singing John Lennon’s “Real Love.” At the end, they stand side by side; you just know she’s going to extend her hand and he’s going to take it.
Leatherwing Bat is set to songs from the 1969 children’s album Peter, Paul and Mommy, and its focus is a loner played by Brett Perry who hovers on the outskirts as the other dancers — John Michael Schert, Virginia Pilgrim, Annali Rose, Dylan G-Bowley, and Lia Cirio — create duos and trios to the lullaby likes of “I Have a Song To Song, O!” and “Day Is Done.” “Going to the Zoo” sees the ensemble cradling Perry for a moment before exploding into the “Mommy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow!” finale. In “Puff (The Magic Dragon),” Perry finds a friend (Schert), but we all know how that ends. There’s some humor involving a recurrent paper airplane, and some imitating of zoo animals; to make the Peter, Paul and Mary selections seem anything but sappy, however, the dancers would have to act like real kids, mischievous and playful and heartless. Instead, McIntyre gives us heart-on-sleeve earnest.
The Reassuring Effects (Of Form and Poetry), for four men and four women, the ladies in toe shoes, is supposed to be McIntyre’s serious salute to (ballet) dancing, but it’s merely dull, starting with the music, Antonín Dvorák’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, a poor cousin of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C. Cirio leads it off with the four men, who lift and spread-eagle and generally manhandle her (the ballerina stripped bare by her bachelors — but costume jewelry alongside the similar section in Balanchine’s Rubies). The rest of the half-hour work is done mostly in couples (and mostly the same couples), with the odd “Hey, we can do tours à la seconde and piqué-chaîné sequences and everything!” — which they can, but to no gratifying end. Cirio and Schert got the slow duet; Schert, who’s danced with Alonzo King and ABT, looks to be the company’s best male dancer, but he doesn’t have much to do here beyond presenting Cirio. And though Cirio evinced a lyric line that I didn’t always observe during her four years with Boston Ballet, she, like the program, left me wanting more.