I’m going to miss Trey McIntyre’s ballets, but I’m excited about what’s next
|My little dancer|
On Mother’s Day in 2013, my children and sweetheart took me out for brunch at the Griddle. My youngest daughter, then seven, became restless as we waited for our pancakes. She stood up suddenly and launched herself across the room in a series of tilted pirouettes, to the delight of a group seated in a booth across the way who happened to be Trey McIntyre Project’s elite dancers. They laughed and smiled at her, then came over to tell her what a fun little dancer she was as she beamed at them.
In my family, it’s always time to dance, so it goes without saying that we are big Trey McIntyre fans. With some excitement but mostly sadness, I hopped on my bike and headed down the Greenbelt to see the company’s final dance performance on Saturday, March 15, the Ides of March (aside: is it permissible for a Boisean to travel to a Trey McIntyre program any other way except by bicycle?). I was excited to see how Trey would translate Edward Gorey’s delightfully macabre illustrations into movement. The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction, perfectly accompanied by a discordant Shostakovich piano trio, did not disappoint: the dancers captured the dark whimsy that makes Edward Gorey’s work so “road accident” gripping.
I was sad because it was the last dance.
McIntyre uses the language of classical ballet and makes it relevant. I know that language because like many 40-something middle class white women, I spent several girlhood years at the barre, hair pulled in a tight bun, pink tights, black leotard, head erect, hips square as headlamps, moving to the mechanical time of a piano: “Plie, releve, plie, releve.” The year I started ninth grade, I had to make a choice: piano, or ballet. It was not an easy one, because I loved both. But at that level, the practice time required would not allow me to excel in both, and I wanted to excel.
So I went to the experts. I asked my ballet teacher, Gilbert Rome, whether I had a chance at being a prima ballerina. He looked at me critically, sizing me up. “Look, you’re a good, solid dancer,” he said. “You practice hard, you learn the steps quickly. I can always count on you to lead the line. But your body’s not built for what the big companies are looking for. You’d have a shot as a corps dancer, but nothing more.”
Fair enough. Then I asked my piano teacher, Linda Anthony. “Sky’s the limit,” she said. “You’re a natural. You play with a musicality that can’t be taught.”
Note: I’ve never performed as a pianist with a symphony orchestra. But I have played professionally for years, and piano continues to be one of the great joys of my life. I compose a Christmas carol every year and have even started a musical, based on the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”
Now I’m no Trey McIntyre. He is one of those rare artistic geniuses that pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, every generation or so. Boise has been lucky to have him and his world-class troupe. But I’m definitely a creative type. So I get his creative itch, that fear of complacency leading to mediocrity, the need for the next big artistic challenge. Sometimes it means sacrificing everything you have and starting over. Been there.
The Trey McIntyre project has meant so many things to so many people in Boise. For me, the work that stands out most is “Bad Winter,” the painful pas de deux danced by Lauren Edson and Travis Walker, which pretty much summed up my failed marriage, right there on the stage. Watching it the first time, I escaped the auditorium to collapse in a thunderstorm of tears. The second time, oddly, was soothing and cathartic.
Whatever he does next, I’m confident in Trey McIntyre’s ability to tell stories that have meaning. So I mourn the last dance with a tear in my eye but a lilt in my step, a shuffle off to Buffalo, and excitement for the next Big Thing.