Trey McIntyre Project will dance in different direction

Trey McIntyre takes a new artistic tack, leaving a little heartbreak behind.

doland@idahostatesman.comJanuary 12, 2014 

  • TREY MCINTYRE PROJECT THROUGH THE YEARS

    2005-07 Trey McIntyre, his then-partner, John Michael Schert, and co-founder Anne Mueller bring their newly formed Trey McIntyre Project to Boise for a rehearsal residency with John Swarthout’s Children’s Dance Institute (Now TRiCA). They perform in the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Annex and return for the next three summers.

    On stage: “High Lonesome,” “The Reassuring Effects (of Form and Poetry),” “Go Out,” “The Blue Boy.”

    2008 McIntyre and Schert surprise the international dance world by announcing they will establish their full-time company in Boise. The New York Times sends a reporter for a week to do a story about “why Boise?” for the Sunday Arts section. The company is later featured in subsequent NYT stories, on the cover of Pointe and Dance magazines and other national publications.

    On stage: “Surrender,” “Leatherwing Bat.”

    2009 TMP starts to receive as much attention for recreating the dance company model as for McIntyre’s innovative choreography. It begins creating spur-of-the-moment urban performances or “spurbans,” showing up on Boise State’s campus, in offices and hospitals and on street corners. McIntyre creates “9 + 1,” a collaboration with Boise artists who created art inspired by the dancers and the company. He collaborates with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to create “Ma Maison.” The two groups go on tour. He hires his first Idaho dancer, Lauren Edson.

    On stage: “Ma Maison,” “(serious),” “A Day in the Life,” “The Sun Road,” “Like a Samba,” “Shape.”

    2010 The company becomes Boise’s first Economic Development Cultural Ambassador and creates “Arrantza,” a ballet inspired by Boise’s Basque culture that gets performed around the world. The group increases its engagement programs that bring dance into the community and receives a $117,360 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to develop them.

    On stage: “Ten Pin Episodes,” “Pork Songs,” “Arrantza,” “Wild Sweet Love.”

    2011 TMP receives a $450,000 ArtPlace America Grant, a $100,000 Our Town Grant from the NEA and is named a U.S. cultural ambassador with DanceMotion USA that will take them on a tour to Asia. The company performs with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band live in Boise.

    On stage: “The Sweeter End,” “Oh, Inverted World,” “Gravity Heroes,” “In Dreams.”

    2012 TMP performs in China, South Korea, Vietnam and Philippines and brings dancers from a South Korean company to Boise to create a new ballet. The company is featured on PBS NewsHour.

    On stage: “The Unkindness of Ravens,” “Blue Until June,” “Bad Winter,” “Ladies and Gentle Men.”

    2013 Co-founder, managing director and dancer John Michael Schert departs the company to become a fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, to further develop his nonprofit business models. McIntyre announces his Kickstarter campaign for his first film about his collaboration with Preservation Hall and the creation of “Ma Maison” and “The Sweeter End.”

    On stage: “Queen of the Goths,” “Pass, Away,” “Mercury Half-life.”

    2014 McIntyre announces he will end the full-time dance company in July to focus TMP on other enterprises involving film production, photography and choreography.

    On stage: World premiere of “The Vinegar Works”

  • CATCH THE LAST BOISE PERFORMANCE

    What: Trey McIntyre Project’s “The Vinegar Works” and “Mercury Half-life”

    When: 2 and 8 p.m. March 15

    Where: Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Drive, Boise

    Tickets: $20-$65 at BoiseStateTickets.com, 426-1110.

When Trey McIntyre brought his full-time dance company to Boise in 2008, no one knew just how much it would impact the city’s cultural fabric.

The company of young, energetic artists settled into the community, and — through its dynamic work on stage, refreshing brand of outreach and innovative business practices — earned an international following and put a very bright spotlight on Boise, elevating the cultural expectations here.

And Boise fell in love with TMP. People showed up to paint the studio walls at TMP headquarters, filled seats at sold-out Morrison Center concerts, sponsored dancers, attended fundraisers and enjoyed the attention the city received as a result of the company’s success.

Now that the choreographer is cutting his dancers and most of his staff loose to embrace a new artistic vision, it feels a little like a breakup.

“I was saddened when I first heard the news,” says James Patrick, executive director of the Morrison Center where TMP regularly performed. “I can understand Trey’s perspective. This is a natural transition artists go through, but to see a strong arts organization changing its path, dancers out of work, is hard. TMP has been an important artistic fixture and an advocate for Boise. There will be a void.”

McIntyre will seek to fill that void with a new Trey McIntyre Project that will be less about dance and more focused on film and photography — two of McIntyre’s longtime passions.

“I’ve been craving to create something more tangible, a perfect moment that is captured — whether it’s on film or the way words are arranged on a page,” McIntyre said.

THE NEW PROJECT

Since the beginning, McIntyre and his co-founder, John Michael Schert, set up the company to change and adapt to the times — so much so that the idea lies at the core of the group’s inception, down to its name.

“If we called ourselves a ballet company, which we are, that limits what we want to do,” Schert told the Statesman in 2009. “That’s why we’re called a ‘project.’ What we do is always evolving.”

TMP grew from a summer company into a nimble dance troupe and eventually into a creative powerhouse for the digital age, incorporating podcasts, YouTube videos and social media as part of its repertoire. The group performed on an international stage and now it’s time to become something else, McIntyre says.

“This new project will open more doors,” he says. “Not having to maintain the structure of a full-time company will allow me more freedom to pursue more of what I want to do as an artist.”

Dance will still be part of the mix, just not the sole focus, he says.

He has several freelance choreography gigs lined up in the U.S. and Australia, and a performance installation at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif. The nearly 30 ballets he created in the past 10 years will be available for other companies to purchase and perform.

He plans to finish work on his narrative documentary about the creation of the New Orleans ballets “Ma Maison” and “The Sweeter End” and create a new documentary on TMP’s development.

Part of that project will be seriously documenting the next five months of the company, until the dancers’ contracts run out June 30.

McIntyre and Schert ran the company together as artistic, business and life partners for its first years. After their personal relationship ended, Schert left the company in 2012.

It was Schert who helped keep McIntyre tethered to the dance world. His departure helped facilitate this change, McIntyre says.

“Running the company got easier for me after John Michael left,” he said.

It also allowed McIntyre the freedom to decide his own trajectory, he says.

“We were talking about doing another year, but there really wasn’t anything more I had to say,” he said. “The only thing keeping me from making this change would have been fear.”

He is not ruling out having another dance company in the future. Many choreographers have gone in and out of running companies. Twyla Tharp had one of the most successful modern companies in the 1970s and ’80s. She disbanded and merged with American Ballet Theatre in 1988 but reorganized another Tharp company in 2000. She also worked in TV, film and Broadway. And she is still creating ballets in her 70s.

CHANGE IS HARD

Even though the transition had been built into the company’s organizational structure and talked about for more than a year, the decision to make the change at this time was a surprise, even for those inside the company.

With talk of doing another year, chief strategy officer Caty Solace had been booking dates into 2015.

“We’d been having conversations, but it was never direct and there were no dates attached,” she says. “When the final version came back to me I was surprised at its completeness and I was part of the development of it.”

The end of TMP’s dance troupe is big news on the dance scene.

“It’s the talk of the town in our world,” Solace says. She is in New York City attending the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference.

“I wanted to meet face to face with the people and presenters we’ve built relationships with and tell them what’s happening in person.”

As appealing and exciting as a new creative vision might be, there is a cost to the community.

Nine dancers and eight staff will be left looking for jobs. Many moved here during the past six years, bought homes and would like to stay in Boise.

The rich engagement and outreach programs the company developed for Boise School District, St. Luke’s Medical Center and other groups will end.

The school performances will be missed, says Roger Lingle, performing arts coordinator for the Boise School District.

“I was really sad to hear they changed their focus,” he says. “They did a performance for middle school kids in November, and the kids were talking about it for weeks afterwards. It just blew their socks off. We’re going to miss those opportunities in the future and we will look for something to replace it.”

HOW THE CHANGE WILL WORK

TMP will phase out operations over the next few months. Some staff will leave in February, others after the March 15 concerts at the Morrison Center. A smaller staff will run things until the end of June, Solace says.

Solace will stay with the new TMP, along with digital content manager Kyle Morck.

The dancers are now on break and will return to work later this month to learn McIntyre’s new ballet inspired by Edward Gorey’s illustrations and stories.

They will perform concert dates on a U.S. tour through June 29, including the final Boise concert.

The last TMP concert will be at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass., one of the venues that was part of the group’s beginning. The Pillow is one of the most important dance venues in the world. Its executive and artistic director, Ella Baff, remembers when she first heard of TMP.

“I was backstage with John Michael (Schert) one day (in 2005) when he asked if I knew Trey McIntyre’s work,” she remembered.

At the time, Schert was with Alonzo King’s Lines ballet company; McIntyre was a well-known freelancer and TMP was just an idea.

Baff decided to book them for that summer in 2005. They pulled dancers together, rehearsed in Boise and performed on the Pillow’s smaller stage. A year later they were back with a world premiere and a sold-out series.

“People connected with him (McIntyre) and his dancers from the very beginning,” Baff says. “It’s unfortunate when we lose a terrific dance company. I know Boise and the rest of the dance world feel the loss.”

A dance company is a convention for creativity, she says.

“But you should only have one if really want it,” she said.

THE DANCERS

The Boise community got to know the dancers personally through videos that opened each concert, especially Ashley Werhun, Chanel DaSilva and Brett Perry, the three who danced with TMP for all six of its Boise years.

But in the life of a dance company, contracts come up every year for renewal. Both dancers and artistic directors negotiate and decide whether to work together for another season.

For TMP, that happens in February. This year, because of this decision to let all the contracts go, it happened in December when McIntyre revealed the next phase of the company.

“I was definitely surprised by Trey’s decision,” DaSilva said. “At the same time, I’m really proud of him for taking the risk to do something different. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m ready to go, so I guess we’re on parallel paths.”

DaSilva plans to move back to her other hometown — New York City — and figure out her next step.

“It’s hard. I love TMP so much and I love Boise so much, but I’m ready to dabble in other things like creating projects with musicians, and working with different choreographers,” she said. “I’m open to whatever happens.”

DaSilva and Perry, along with Travis Walker, have been working with McIntyre to keep his choreographic legacy alive by setting his ballets on other companies, notating them on paper.

“Depending on what happens next for me, I hope to keep setting his ballets when I have time,” Perry said from Cincinnati where he is setting McIntyre’s “Chasing Squirrel” on Cincinnati Ballet. “We enjoy working together, so I’ll always want to stay in contact with him creatively.”

Perry is starting to think about companies he wants to send his resume to.

“I’ve always had an itch to go to Europe,” he said. If he doesn’t get a full-time contract he might use Boise as a base and work as a freelance dancer for a while, he says.

Many choreographers work on a short-term basis. Very few companies have year-round contracts these days.

“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye,” Perry said.

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

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