Trey McIntyre's New Documentary Delves Into Why His Company Closed
"The art was telling me that things had to change. And they had to change big. Something I created needed to die off. When the company was at its height, when it was at its most successful, I closed it down."
These puzzling words are spoken by choreographer Trey McIntyre in Gravity Hero, his new documentary, which unpacks the rise and fall of his wildly successful dance company, Trey McIntyre Project. When he disbanded the troupe in 2014, the dance world couldn't quite wrap their heads around it. Why stop when you're touring 22 weeks a year? Why stop when you've done the seemingly impossible by creating a thriving company in the dance desert of Boise, Idaho?
McIntyre wrestles with these questions and much more in Gravity Hero, which premieres July 23 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Dance on Camera Festival in New York City. The poignant documentary is also chock-full of TMP performance clips, providing a welcome walk down memory lane through some of McIntyre's most beloved works. Aside from film and photography projects, he is currently working with Parsons Dance and continues to choreograph and set works at companies around the world. We caught up with McIntyre prior to the screening.
Gravity Hero covers a lot of ground. It's autobiographical—addressing your childhood and how you became a choreographer—but it's also largely about the company and how you make dances. What would you say it's about in a nutshell?
It's about the process of living and dying, and the small ways that we do that all the time—and the big ways.
In the film, you talk about dealing with the loss and death of your company by exploring those ideas in your choreography. Are those themes still as central in your work today?
I don't understand those things until after the work is finished. The most recent piece—I just made one for BalletX—was really about fear and conquering fear. It's called The Boogeyman, and I guess there was...yeah, okay. It's still about death. [laughs] I was just realizing one of the characters literally dies in the piece. [laughs]
Why was it important for you to tell the story of your company's closure?
We had started this film project earlier and had done a Kickstarter to begin funding it. The original topic was going to be my piece Ma Maison. As the company was closing, we were still batting that around. I have to say the last six months of the company were the hardest of my life, just in terms of how to actually wind something that big down.
I got to the last day at Jacob's Pillow, our final show, and then next day I was like, There's still a movie to be made, and I'm the only one left. I really should not be in a place where I felt like, Well, crap. I'm gonna churn this thing out because I said I would. But to really take the opportunity to make something that was worthwhile, not just for me, but for the people who supported it. I'm a person who can move through things quickly and maybe not take the time that one should for such a massive transition, so it was a forced looking back through the attic. Having to process all that was incredibly, personally helpful for me.
You've been working in film for some time now. Why and how did that become such a strong interest for you?
Growing up in hyper-conservative Wichita, Kansas, my main creative avenue and also means of escape was going to the movies. I would literally see every single movie that came to the theaters. Even as a choreographer, I think and edit and move people through space cinematically.
The first film I made was in '94, when I was still dancing with Houston Ballet. I BS'ed my way into the local access television station to get use of their Beta cameras. The first thing that I made was so over the top, like at the level of a full-length ballet in terms of its scale and overdrawn emotion. It's been a process of learning how different and how much more subtle and nuanced this medium is compared to the stage. It seems obvious on some levels, but it took quite a while to understand that. I also think when you work in a form that's so ephemeral for a lifetime there's this strong desire to have something that feels permanent.
Do you have any more film projects lined up?
The next thing I want to do is a feature-length narrative film project. I'm also writing a "slow story," a sentence every week. I'm meeting strangers on the street and asking them if they'll read one second of it each day, and I'm editing it together as a story that we all tell. I'm gonna take it around the world, at least for a couple of years, until the story's done. I'm really taking my time as I'm filming it.
Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
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The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
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Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
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I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
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As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
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Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.