- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

At a time when several ballet companies are folding or downsizing, the Trey McIntyre Project, in its second season, is proving to be a successful, if offbeat, model for a new way of presenting dance.

As a choreographer, Mr. McIntyre is in demand all over the country — indeed, the world — staging ballets for such groups as the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Stuttgart Ballet.

For his group, TMP, appearing at Wolf Trap Tuesday, he has created a repertoire of fresh new ballets, handpicked a small group of dancers from companies where he has worked, and rehearsed them intensely to appear in summer festivals across the country before they disband till the following year.

The impermanence of the venture seems to suit him just fine right now, but the popularity of TMP has led presenters to suggest he turn it into a full-time company.

Mr. McIntyre’s response is, “I want to stay a creative artist, and if running a full-time company took me away from that, it wouldn’t be worth it. We’re constantly exploring new ways of looking at a company — for instance, next summer, maybe we won’t do any touring but will spend our time together making a film.”

TMP, he says, brings together “dancers I’ve had the closest, most synergistic relationship with. It’s the most wonderful working environment I’ve ever experienced.”

Both summers, his group has rehearsed at White Oak Plantation in Florida.

“Being accepted to work there is a huge gift,” Mr. McIntyre says. “I don’t think we could have pulled off the company without it. Our only expenses are the dancers’ salaries and transportation. A five-star chef cooks every meal; they make our beds; we have beautiful rehearsal space. It’s idyllic, right in the jungle in northern Florida, surrounded by giraffes and rhinoceroses.

“The company is pretty much the same as last year. Jason Hartley from the Washington Ballet is new, and so is a dancer from Oregon Ballet Theatre. I liked him so much, partially because he’s my height — six-feet-six — and I’ve never worked with a guy my height before.”

The lean and lanky Mr. McIntyre says he started taking ballet because he was awkward and overweight. He was wildly creative, studying piano for 20 years and studying art.

“Early on, I would often cut class and go get a Slurpee — but I loved having new materials to make things out of. So as I was learning this vocabulary of dance, my immediate instinct was to play with it, find new things in it. I was turned on to the possibility of choreography fairly early.

“One day, I was in the parking lot, showing friends some steps I’d made up. My teacher happened to see me through the window. She immediately came outside and instead of yelling at me said, ‘Well, why don’t you come in and teach it to the rest of the class?’

“From that time on, I really thought I was going to be a choreographer.”

Things happened quickly after that. He graduated in dance from the North Carolina School of the Arts, was invited to attend a summertime choreographic workshop at the Houston Ballet, then spent a year in the Houston Ballet School. At graduation, Ben Stevenson, the company’s artistic director, announced he was creating a new position for Mr. McIntyre as choreographic apprentice.

The dance world is hungry for new creative voices, and Mr. McIntyre’s career took off like a rocket.

The Wolf Trap program includes his latest work, “Go Out.”

“Its score is a mix of things I associate with where I grew up, in Wichita, Kansas — bluegrass and gospel music from that area,” Mr. McIntyre says. “It examines my ever-changing views about death and religion and superstition.”

Most of the music comes from Ralph Stanley, who sang on the soundtrack of “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.”

“He’s associated with what they call the high lonesome sound,” Mr. McIntyre notes. “There’s a darkness and sadness to the way he sings that’s very powerful.”

Working on themes that are important to him, with a close-knit group of dancers in an aesthetic environment, Mr. McIntyre says, has led to the greatest period of development he has had as an artist.

Asked if this was a milestone for him, he answers simply, “You’d better believe.”

WHAT: Trey McIntyre Project

WHEN:Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Vienna

TICKETS: $26 to $34 ($10 lawn)

PHONE: 877/WOLFTRAP

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