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Trey McIntyre Project

By Susan Reiter

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Ted Shawn Theater
Becket, MA
August 8–13, 2012
Performance reviewed: Aug. 8


Jacob’s Pillow was where Trey McIntyre launched his full-time company four years ago, and for its third Pillow program, it offered three works all made specifically for this troupe. At times McIntyre has drawn on his rich catalogue of dances created during his years of extensive freelancing, adding them to TMP’s repertory, but these were all made expressly for his versatile, invigorating company. McIntyre can be counted on for a fresh unpredictability; he has an unassuming way of incorporating ballet precision and refinement within a down-to-earth flavor and unexpected gestures. 

The fact that all three works on this program were set to a variety of popular vocal music, from distinctly different eras, meant that one was listening to lyrics (and snatches of text) all evening. Something instrumental might have allowed the program to breathe a bit more. But the scores had very specific flavors—and associations—and were clearly ones to which McIntyre felt a strong connection.

Framing the program were two dances set to beloved, iconic material, evoking very specific decades.

Leatherwing Bat, set to classic Peter, Paul and Mary songs, was one of the first works McIntyre made for TMP, newly restaged this season. It’s a marvel that has only grown in stature. Without establishing specific characters, McIntyre evokes the terrors, insecurity and isolation of childhood, as well as the wistful regrets of adulthood. The movement is often busy and quirky but vividly etched on the music; pristine classical steps are threaded through with gracious subtlety. Each time a pas de chat appears, it takes one’s breath away.

 

 

Members of TMP in Ladies and Gentle Men. Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

 

Ladies and Gentle Men, the world premiere that closed the program, is set to songs and narration drawn from the popular 1970s “Free to Be . . .You and Me” record album/television special. Featuring a cast of three men in suits and ties and three women in pouffy bright-colored party dresses, the piece manages to find freshness and vibrancy in rough-and-tumble moves, while having to cope with material (totally unfamiliar to this writer, despite its many incarnations) that nobly cheerleads for avoiding gender stereotypes, accepting those who are different, and letting each person’s individuality emerge triumphant. For about two-thirds of the dance, a stop-and-start pacing made it feel like a stream of well-intentioned vignettes. But gradually the more proper outer layer of costuming was peeled off, ultimately liberating the dancers’ wonderfully juicy energy and deft timing, and the work gathered more sustained momentum.

 

The program’s fascinating middle piece, Bad Winter, which premiered last February, was intriguing and at times unnerving. It opened with a punchy, defiant solo for Chanel DeSilva set to “Pennies From Heaven.” She wore a bare-bones tank top and shorts, with a white tailcoat that suggested she might be a master of ceremonies. Then the lights came up on a remarkably intimate duet for Lauren Edson and Travis Walker, who moved with wariness and exposed nerves—grappling, pushing one another away—to two songs by The Cinematic Orchestra. He literally gave her the shirt off his back—she ducked her head under it from behind, and suddenly she was wearing it—but they ended in a forlorn standoff, the shirt crumpled and tossed over his prone body as she loomed over him.

 

 

Laura Edson and Travis Walker in Bad Winter. Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

 

Pictured at top: Travis Walker and Chanel DaSilva in Ladies and Gentle Men.

Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Jacob's Pillow.