Creating dance more than music and movement |

Creating dance more than music and movement

Stewart Oksenhorn

Trey McIntyre was always a focused, arts-oriented kid, going back to his days at an alternative school in his Wichita, Kan., hometown. Music theater was his forte, but most any kind of art form would do.And then he met dance.It’s hard to imagine now, what with his fit 6-foot-6 frame and head-turning handsomeness. But McIntyre swears he was a short, fat, uncoordinated kid at age 11, when his mother enrolled him in ballet classes at Wichita’s Dance Center. Adding to his discomfort, McIntyre was the only boy in the class. So he regularly ditched lessons.And then he found out about choreography.One day, while skipping class and hanging out outside the ballet studio, McIntyre was messing around with some improvised dance steps. His teacher spied him through the window. “And instead of yelling at me, she said, ‘Why don’t you teach the class those steps?'” said McIntyre.That was all he needed to hear: Dance could mean inventing something as much as it could twirling and leaping. “I was a creative kid,” said McIntyre. “Having a new material like dance was a reason to make up something new.”As the fat melted away and he developed physical grace, McIntyre pursued a dance career. He studied ballet at the North Carolina School of Arts; in 1989, McIntyre joined the Houston Ballet as a dancer. But while he was dancing, creating was in the front of his mind. “Dancing,” he says, “was always a college for being a choreographer.” In North Carolina, McIntyre participated in Onyx, an off-campus program that gave him the chance to experiment on his own as a choreographer. At the Houston Ballet, where he was a company member for six years, McIntyre got to watch and work with the best of the best choreographers and jumped at the chance to join the organization’s summer choreography workshops. In 1990, he created his first professional piece, for the Houston Ballet.It has been an informal, haphazard sort of education – and McIntyre would have it no other way. “I think that’s the best way for choreographers to learn,” said the 34-year-old. “Any formal choreography program is formulaic. It’s best for a choreographer to work on their own, make their own thing, then refine it.”It has worked for McIntyre. He has created dances for the New York City Ballet, Ballet Santiago and the Stuttgart Ballet, and in the next few months his profile will be raised higher still, as the American Ballet Theatre, the Washington Ballet and the Cincinnati Ballet all perform new works of his.Creating ‘loveCRAZY’McIntyre’s work is already familiar to fans of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. His late ’90s piece “Like a Samba,” originally created for the Oregon Ballet Theatre, has become part of the local company’s repertoire.Over the past few weeks, McIntyre has become more closely associated with the ASFB. McIntyre has been creating a new piece, “loveCRAZY,” with the company dancers. The dance will have its world premiere Thursday, July 15, when the ASFB opens its Aspen Dance Festival at the Aspen District Theatre. “loveCRAZY” is part of a program of mixed repertory that includes two additional dances – Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” and Paul Taylor’s “Company B” – that are new to the company. The program, with additional performances Friday and Saturday, July 1617, is rounded out with an encore performance of the solo work “Afternoon of a Faun,” to be danced by Sam Chittenden.”loveCRAZY” has its origins in the music of Oregon band Pink Martini, which is earning a following for its hip, Latin-tinged big-band sound. ASFB co-artistic directors Jean-Philippe Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker were looking for a choreographer to create a dance set to Pink Martini’s music. McIntyre seemed a logical choice, based on the Latin edge of “Like a Samba.”When McIntyre arrived in Aspen from his home in Brooklyn two weeks ago, he had that music – and little else concrete. All the dance moves have been created over the past two weeks, the shortest time frame in which he has made a piece. But McIntyre hardly came into Aspen cold, without an idea of what he wanted to create. He has been working with costume designer Kirsty Munn, cooking up ideas about costumes, stage design and, above all, emotional content. “I think of myself as ‘the archaeologist,'” said McIntyre. “Because I try to dig up as many related ideas as I can – a piece of fabric, a photograph, an old memory, a story I’ve read.””loveCRAZY” was informed by the romantic nature of the music. “It’s so romantic. So the theme had to be about romantic love,” said McIntyre. And one of the first ideas McIntyre excavated was the use of fur coats. “There’s something so suggestive about fur coats. It makes you physicality different. Just dealing with something like that opens up a whole new world choreographically.”With its twinkling lights and a hovering sign that reads, “Forever,” there is a theatrical, Broadway feel to parts of “loveCRAZY” that borders on fantasy. That is part of the point of the piece. The first part of the dance, said McIntyre, “is meant to explore, especially in the beginning, the kind of overindulgent way people project into romantic love, and the high of it. It suggests fantasy.”There is a big emotional shift in the piece, intended to contrast the difference between those heightened expectations of early love and the reality that follows.”I see it in two big parts,” said McIntyre. “It starts with everyone indulging the idea, this addictive quality. Then there’s a pas de deux when we reveal the craziness beneath it all. It’s a couple that’s going through the postures of being in love, but there’s something wrong underneath it.”Toward the end is a solo segment that McIntyre says “is meant to expound the human part of it. He’s sad; that’s the first point where we’re looking at a real human being. And in the end, when they come back, they look through the idea of romantic love again.”What I discovered about a relationship is it comes from really knowing it. That warm sense of elation comes from knowing a reality, rather than a fantasy.”Aspen Dance Festival lineupIn addition to the program of mixed repertory, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company will perform “A Children’s Rainforest Odyssey” on Sundays, July 18 and July 25, at 4 p.m.The Aspen Dance Festival continues with the Mark Morris Dance Group July 22-24; Diavolo Dance Theatre Aug. 5-7, with an additional children’s performance on Aug. 7; Parsons Dance Company Aug. 12-14, with a performance for children on Aug. 14; and Les Ballets Africains Aug. 17-18, with a children’s performance on Aug. 18.Also, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company will make its first international performances later this summer in Canada and in the early fall in France.The ASFB will appear at the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur in the alpine town of Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, Aug. 5 and 7. The company will travel to France in mid-September, for performances Sept. 16 at Le Temps d’Aimer in Biarritz, and Sept. 18 at the Festival Cadences in Arcachon, a seaside town on the Bay of Biscay, 50 miles west of Bordeaux.The company’s summer schedule also includes performances July 30 through Aug. 1 in Santa Fe; and Aug. 24 and 27-28 in Breckenridge.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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