Dancer Chanel DaSilva whirls past in a blur of red netting and ruffles as Brett Perry swirls down to the floor, then lifts her overhead. As if by osmosis, the pair take in choreographer Trey McIntyres direction and respond with intricate and intriguing movement. About 300 people including all of the companys national board gathered at the fundraiser a few weeks ago to watch a world-premiere preview of McIntyres latest piece, Ladies and Gentle Men, at the Morrison Center. (The official world premiere for the piece happened Aug. 8 at Jacobs Pillow in Beckett, Mass.)
After the performance, the company welcomed the audience onto the stage for an extended party to kick off the Trey McIntyre Projects fifth season in Boise and bid on a few high-priced live auction items, including the opportunity to pick music and a title for a McIntyre original ballet created on the spot.
Its a choreographic exercise McIntyre pulls off every so often at events to open a window into his creative process and give donors a look at what theyre getting.
At last months gathering, people watched with a sense of wonder and anticipation at the shorthand communication between the artists as the dancers executed whats become McIntyres signature, intricate style.
McIntyres origins in classical ballet have evolved into something entirely different. His dancers call his steps Trey-isms, DaSilva says, and his approach to movement is more than a twist on the classical playbook. Its translating it into a new language.
And as the choreography has changed, so has the man and the artist. Now his Trey McIntyre Project is about to morph into something different yet again. Although what it will look like is not clear yet, as with his choreography, McIntyre says he will know it when it happens.
Im not in a place where Im ready to talk about it yet, McIntyre says. With the company functioning at such a high level, its time for me, personally, to diversify and to continue to innovate artistically and work on other projects.
There are ideas circulating, but what those projects are is anyones guess: making a film, writing a book or Broadway show, orchestrating an Olympic opening ceremony. The TMP crew isnt talking.
ROOM TO GROW
TMP has come a long way in its four years in Boise. The company has been the citys official cultural ambassador and its presence has drawn attention to the citys arts community locally and nationally. TMP infuses hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy each year and has become known as an innovative creative force on a global scale.
And it all began happening when McIntyre and executive director and dancer John Michael Schert chose to anchor the company in Boise.
Honestly, I dont think it could have happened in any other place, McIntyre says. Its connected to living here and the level of focus and the love I guess thats the right word with which the organization is supported. I think five years is a short time to get to the level where this organization is at.
At TMP, evolution, both personal and professional, is part of the gig, he says.
Its healthy for the company to expand in different ways, McIntyre says. People hear this, and theyre scared of change, but if anything, this is leading to more of an investment in Boise and not just maintain and toe the line but continue to innovate and expand on what we do.
In June, TMP moved its new headquarters into the former Five Rivers, a tony home decor store and warehouse, on Warm Springs Avenue in East Boise. This was shortly after the company returned from a monthlong tour of Asia representing the U.S. State Department as cultural ambassadors in five countries.
Its a larger space than the previous headquarters behind the Foothills School in Downtown Boise, where the company worked for its first four years in Boise.
In the front of the building, a growing number of staff its up to 24 now buzzes around an arsenal of Apple computers and laptops bathed in TMPs signature sunshine yellow.
The pace is fast. They stand more than they sit. Clothing is casual: jeans, dance and workout wear, TMP T-shirts and comfortable shoes. Engagement director Kristin Aunes dog naps nearby. You wind through the small maze of open offices to the back of the 15,000-square-foot building, where the dancers rehearse Ladies and Gentle Men, McIntyres innovative and emotional ballet based on the pioneering 1974 TV special Free to Be ...You and Me.
For TMP, it all seems like business as usual and it is for now, but there is a sense of something new in the air as the company makes changes that will free McIntyre from day-to-day company management and the constant touring he once did.
This will allow him to seek out and pursue other artistic interests and opportunities, he says.
You know, my passion is not about dance, McIntyre says. Its about being able to figure something out through an artistic expression. Im interested in a lot of different mediums.
That doesnt mean anything is going to change immediately, Schert says.
The 2012-13 performance season is set. McIntyre will go on tour when he needs to, Schert says, and will create two to three new ballets each year.
Its actually not healthy for the creative vitality of the company for Trey to be on tour just to be there, Schert says. We dont want him to micromanage or to show up and be a figurehead. Thats a waste of his time. Weve gotten much more organized in figuring out where he needs to be.
Year 5 TMPs official name for the season will be the calm before the creative storm. That doesnt mean it will be easy, but its about laying groundwork for the deeper change coming and taking a breath, Schert says.
I feel the company has reached a certain level of success we really made something happen and reached the goals we set, he says. But its like were at the top of the roller coaster, and the ride keeps going. Were being offered bigger and bigger opportunities. So, where do we go from here? There are so many opportunities coming at us, we decided to curb that momentum or it will eat us alive. Things come in cycles, so this is a regrouping cycle.
Dont get the idea that it will be a slow season. There still are big projects in the works. In September, an Asian dance company will be in Boise to collaborate with TMP, the culmination of the DanceMotion USA tour. The piece will make its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York in November, with a preview in Boise on Nov. 10.
The bigger changes will come in Year 6.
CHANGE IS CONSTANT
Change is good and it always comes when you dont expect it, DaSilva says. Year 6 could be anything. Im excited to explore new avenues with the company and for myself.
DaSilva is one of four dancers currently in the 10-member company who moved here in 2008 when TMP rocked the dance world by calling Boise home. Schert, Perry and Ashley Werhun also are five-year TMP veterans. This is Benjamin Behrends and Travis Walkers second season; Ryan Redmond, Elizabeth Keller and Rachel Sherak are new this year. Derek Ege will join the company in October.
Jason Hartley, who came in 2008, left the company in early 2012 and recently founded the Boise Dance Cooperative. This year sees the departures of Yarinet Restrepo, Annali Rose who heads to Ballet San Jose and Lauren Edson, who is pursuing her own freelance choreography career.
Such comings and goings are constant in dance companies as people pursue new opportunities or make changes in their lives. But in a company like TMP, where part of its success hinges on the personal connections the audience makes with the performers, it can feel jarring.
Its always sad to lose a dancer because the dynamic changes, Schert says. But thats what happens in dance companies all the time. Theres a mourning and loss, but then when I really watched Rachel and Ryan dance, I was like, wow. There is so much new information and energy there, a whole new color palette that Trey gets to work with.
In TMP, there is the added pressure of a long touring schedule, the extreme physicality of the work and the need to give 100 percent of yourself all the time. And that doesnt just mean physically, says dancer Sherak.
Its as much about bringing who you are to work as it is about your body, she says.
He (Trey) doesnt just care about the dancer part of me but (also) the artist and the person, she says. He wants to see my personality; not every artistic director does. Sometimes, dance can feel repetitive, but not this, and its very athletic. Every day of work feels like an accomplishment.
GROWING IN BOISE
Todays $2.25 million budget is a far cry from the companys origins, when three friends McIntyre, Schert (then a dancer with Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet) and Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Anne Mueller were dreaming big and traveling around the country putting on concerts in the summers.
Trey was designing the website; Anne was doing the marketing. I was doing all the fundraising and the booking. In my heart, it still feels like that sometimes, Schert says. Now, theres a business to it, and you have to make sure you can feed everyone.
As the company grew, things had to change, and both McIntyre and Schert needed to give up control and delegate. Plus all the juggling of multiple roles over the years took a toll on McIntyres and Scherts nine-year personal relationship last year.
We basically had four relationships: There was us as people, there was us as choreographer and dancer, us as co-directors and the role of me as his agent and manager. Sadly our personal relationship ended, but through it, we realized that what we do best is work together, Schert says.
Schert will step back from performing, he says, and focus more on his executive directors role and the demand for him to speak about TMPs innovative practices.
He will continue to perform the pieces he does now, including Leatherwing Bat and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band rep and do about two-thirds of the 2012-13 concerts.
Schert will give a talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference in Long Beach in the spring about the success of TMPs business model, its creative placemaking and engagement programs.
TED brings together artists, researchers, scientists anyone thinking and doing something fascinating to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or fewer. Theyre sometimes called genius talks.
PIECES IN PLACE
In order to make this kind of paradigm shift, TMP is laying a foundation with a few key hires, most importantly a full-time rehearsal director, Christina Johnson a dynamic, highly organized former ballet dancer and certified life coach.
A friend in Israel emailed me about the job, so I went on the website and watched a video of Trey talking about creativity, and I got tingly, Johnson says. Within five minutes I knew I had to work for this guy.
Johnsons chief duty is to keep a contained environment in the studio so everyone can focus on the work. During rehearsals, Johnson observes everything, takes notations and remembers fleeting thoughts and remarks McIntyre expresses. She also acts as a buffer between him and the dancers. She helps the dancers cope with the rigors of the job, so hes not caught up in the day-to-day dramas of managing a dance company.
That separation actually offers McIntyre more quality time with his dancers. I feel like our interactions are more meaningful and thoughtful because of that, he says.
Getting that kind of separation and if not isolation, then room for contemplation is a large part of this shift, McIntyre says.
Its funny that I ended up in choreography, because Im such a private person, and a private artist, and this is probably the most public medium that there is. It takes a room full of people to create, and I had to really learn that skill, for sure, McIntyre says. Im not shy, but I am an introvert. Im getting better about creating those boundaries and making time for myself to be quiet and alone, because those things are really energizing for me. So, Ill become more of a recluse, but not a recluse.
Dana Oland is a former professional dancer and member of Actors Equity who writes about performing and visual arts for the Idaho Statesman. She also writes about food, wine, pets, jazz and other aspects of the good life in Boise. Read more arts coverage in her new blog at Voices.IdahoStatesman.com/oland.