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10 Minutes with Trey McIntyre
A year and a half after closing his company, the choreographer continues to bring dance to film, photography and the stage.
Photo from McIntyre’s upcoming book, Private Idaho. Photo by McIntyre.
The dance world gasped when Trey McIntyre announced in 2014 that he was shutting down his company, Trey McIntyre Project, after six wildly successful years as a full-time troupe. The dashing dancemaker, currently traveling around the country, always had a hand in other projects, such as film and photography, so his next chapter as an independent choreographer/filmmaker/photographer was already in motion. As McIntyre works on both books and a film, he’s also making new dances: The latest, for BalletX, is slated for a February 10–14 premiere at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
What is the new work for BalletX about?
I am using music by Amy Winehouse. Usually, I don’t focus on biographical info, but I am interested in Amy’s story. I identify with portions of her process as an artist, and her death really affected me. It was so tragic. The ballet explores parts of her life that I resonate with. She had a different way of bringing herself and her art into the world; her struggle with that was her eventual undoing. She was miserable, inconsolable until it was right. The world was terrible until she figured out how to make it into art.
What’s the best part of your life now that your company has closed?
I’m able to return my focus to being an artist, and make that the principal activity of my life. It feels like I’m getting back to myself.
What’s been most difficult?
I was always so proud of how nimble TMP was, and I had an amazing staff that made that possible. Now, if something needs to be done, it has to be me doing it.
Tell us about the film you’ve been working on.
This Used to Be My House is about the life and death of a dance company, and my personal journey through that process. This is my first long-form documentary, so I am learning so much every day. As with most documentaries, you learn what it is about after you shoot it. It’s turning out to be autobiographical, with a big focus on the dances I made during the course of the company, especially the two ballets using the music of Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans, The Sweeter End and Ma Maison. Those pieces examined the unique culture around death in that community, and the film draws metaphorical parallels to the life and death of TMP.
And I understand there are book projects underway as well.
Yes, two, actually! Private Idaho includes nude photos of athletes in the gorgeous terrain of Idaho, with my essays and an intro by actor Alan Cumming. It should be out in a year or so. The second book is about how dancers relate to the place they call home. You can get an idea of my photography from my Instagram, @treymcintyrephoto.
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.
In today's dance world, it seems to go without saying: The more varied the training, the better. But is that always the case? Rhonda Malkin, a New York City–based dance coach who performed with the Radio City Rockettes, thinks trendy contemporary techniques that emphasize improvisation and organic movement quality are detrimental to the precision and strength needed to be a Rockette, in a traditional Broadway show or on a professional dance team. Her view is controversial: "If you really want to work, making $40,000 in three months for the Rockettes or $25,000 in one day filming a commercial, you need ballet, Broadway jazz, tap, hip hop—not contemporary," she says.
On the flip side, techniques that allow dancers more freedom may help them connect more deeply with their body and artistry, while providing release for overused muscles. We broke down the argument for both sides:
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being made despite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.
Not all ballet dancers cling to their youth. At 26, Lauren Lovette, the New York City Ballet principal, has surpassed the quarter-century mark. And she's relieved.
"I've never felt young," she says. "I can't wait until I'm 30. Every woman I've ever talked to says that at 30 you just don't care. You're free. Maybe I'll start early?"
When Beatlemania swept through the U.S. in the 1960s, Mark Morris was one of millions of young Americans who fell head over heels for the revolutionary group. "I was not immune," the choreographer says. "My sisters were mad about The Beatles and so was I. At age 12 I had a crush on Paul, of course."
Flash forward 50 years and he is still rocking to the British band, but this time with a new Beatles-inspired dance work his company is touring across North America, starting this month with scheduled stops in Seattle, Toronto, Portland, Oregon, and another 25 cities before the end of 2019.
You could call it island-hopping, but it's not exactly a vacation. After choreographing last season's Come From Away, and winning a Tony nomination, Kelly Devine zipped from frosty Newfoundland to the Caribbean beach resort that is the setting for Escape to Margaritaville.
In the fall, she was shuttling between them, before they start this month: flying to Toronto to prepare a new Canadian production of Come From Away, then jetting back to Chicago for the final stop of Margaritaville's four-city pre-Broadway tryout.
"These two shows could not be more different from each other," Devine says with a dash of understatement. Come From Away is about the small Newfoundland town where airliners grounded by the 9/11 attacks dumped thousands of unexpected visitors; Escape to Margaritaville, at the Marquis Theatre, is a comic island romance concocted from the beachcomber songbook of Jimmy Buffett.
How does someone go from being a New York City Ballet corps member to training Hollywood A-listers like Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Jennifer Lawrence? By getting injured, says Kurt Froman.
When an ankle sprain left him sidelined a few years back, Froman was "sitting at home, depressed" when he sent his friend Benjamin Millepied an email asking what he was up to. It turned out that Millepied had just been hired to choreograph some scenes for a movie, but had to be in Paris during pre-production. "He needed someone to teach two actors choreography and get them in shape," says Froman. With nothing else on his plate, he said yes, and started prepping Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis for Black Swan.