What Makes a Dance American?

August 19, 2012


Basking in the fun and cleverness of Trey McIntyre’s Oh, Inverted World, I caught a whiff of nostalgia for teenage American life. He borrowed the title from a popular album by the Indie rock band The Shins. This is quintessentially American, feel-good music. McIntyre’s choreography for eight dancers, performed by the Smuin Ballet at the Joyce this past week, rides on the playfulness of the music with his signature blend of ballet, quirky gestures, and social dance. The group interactions keep surprising you. The dancers can be cuddly one minute, jumpy the next.




We’re so used to hearing classical, i.e. European, music in both ballet and modern dance concerts, that it’s rare when a choreographer chooses American music. For Trey, this is consistent: he’s also used New Orleans jazz, Roy Orbison, Etta James, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So what makes McIntyre’s work American? Just the music? The can-do confidence? The sense of daring? The mix of ballet and quasi-party dance? The willingness to break with the past? Whatever it is, he’s turned the American city of Boise, Idaho, into a dance-loving city. Read about how he accomplished that in our cover story on the Trey McIntyre Project.


Photos by David Allen, Courtesy Smuin Ballet. Top: Benjamin Behrends, Jane Rehm, and company. Below:Erin Yarbrough Stewart, Matthew Linzer, and company.