Trey McIntyre Project has its last dance at Zellerbach

Cal Performances/Courtesy

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In what Cal Performances called “The Farewell Tour of the Trey McIntyre Project,” the Boise-based contemporary dance company gave performances on March 21 and 22 that evoked a sense of an ending as well as enthusiasm for what is yet to come.

Since its founding in 2005 by choreographer Trey McIntyre, the Trey McIntyre Project remained a full-time dance company until 2013. In 2013 McIntyre announced he would be entering the film world with the production of a crowdsourced documentary, “Ma Maison.”

To allow McIntyre to focus on different forms of media, film, photography and writing, the Trey McIntyre Project will be disbanding as a full-time dance company. However, Caty Solace, the company’s Chief Strategy Officer, revealed in an interview that just because “Trey’s artistic vision is shifting” does not mean the spirit of company is ending. The mission statement of the Project—to nurture, support and produce the artistic vision of Trey McIntyre and engage individuals and communities in the experience of art— will remain the same.

Last weekend’s performance in Zellerbach Hall  featured McIntyre’s two newest works, “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction,” which McIntyre finished choreographing the week before the show, and “Mercury Half-Life” (2013). The combination of these works elicited, as Solace put it, “a certain amount of sadness balanced with excitement for the future,” very appropriate for a farewell tour.

 Inspired by the illustrator and writer Edward Gorey, the World Premier of “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction” began with a voice reciting Gorey’s abecedarian book “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” which associates each letter with a child’s name only to then describe the child’s untimely death.

Divided into four separate dances, as indicated by the work’s title, each dance used a different Gorey book as inspiration. McIntyre used the strange, twisted characters created by the macabre children’s book author to communicate the fact that all things must come to an end. The death that became a central theme of the performance served as a reflection of the death of the strictly dance focus that characterized McIntyre’s artistic past.

Featuring puppets created by production designer Michael Curry, known for his work on Broadway and Olympic ceremonies, and a strictly black, white and grey pallet, the dance resembled a scene from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” A nearly 15-foot-tall, top-hat wearing, skull-faced omen of death, taken straight from one of Gorey’s illustrations, lurked on stage as ghostly dancers clad in tattered black lace Victorian dresses and furry full-length coats leaped through the air.

The second piece performed by the Trey McIntyre Project aroused an entirely different emotional response. “Mercury Half-Life,” set to 16 classic Queen songs, enlivened audience members.

While not a completely original idea (Ben Elton’s 2002 musical “We Will Rock You” was also set entirely to Queen songs), Solace reveals McIntyre’s desire to use Queen songs as a way to “channel the feeling of ecstatic audience energy.” With constant fluctuations in the operatic path the band’s music certainly energized the audience who stomped their feet and clapped their hands when “We Will Rock You” blasted through the sound system.

However, the highly dramatic music proved to be a disadvantage during moments when individual dancers could not compete with their soundtrack. Although more often than not, the incredibly expressive, fast-paced and athletic choreography was so mesmerizing that dancers drew more attention than the rock and roll.

The dynamic and animated choreography that defined  “Mercury Half-Life” reminded audience members of the vitality that still exists within the Trey McIntyre Project even after “The Vinegar Works” made audience members face the sad realization that like all things, the company as it is now known must come to an end.  There is much to look forward to as McIntyre carries his artistic vision into new mediums.

Contact Sophia Weltman at [email protected].