Back in September, while the U.S. financial markets were imploding, Trey McIntyre was kicking off an international tour to mark the debut of his full-time dance company. Launching a dance troupe in the midst of an economic crisis might seem quixotic (or suicidal) — survival is a struggle for many companies even in the best of times. So you might not want to try it unless you’re one of the world’s top ballet choreographers.
Fortunately for McIntyre, he is.
McIntyre got his start at age 20, when he was named choreographic apprentice to Houston Ballet in 1989. Since then, he has created more than 75 ballets for such companies as American Ballet Theatre, Stuttgart Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and served as resident choreographer for several major troupes. McIntyre’s work, set to music ranging from Beck to Bartók, has earned him numerous awards and the love of critics and audiences alike. And, as if that weren’t enough, he’s totally dreamy: The 6-foot-6, blue-eyed Kansan was one of People Magazine’s “25 Hottest Bachelors” in 2003.
But we digress: The Trey McIntyre Project started as a part-time pickup company in 2004, and for the next three years a small group of dancers on loan from various companies performed his work on the summer festival circuit. In 2007, McIntyre decided to take TMP full-time. He secured a group of 10 dancers, a budget of $1.5 million and a home base in Boise, Idaho, and premiered the company in August at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts.
TMP wrapped up the first leg of its tour in November and is scheduled to start up again in February. Now back in Boise for the holiday break, McIntyre took a few minutes to chat with us about how things are going so far.
Flavorwire: How’s the tour? Trey McIntyre: I keep pinching myself, it’s going so well. In some ways, the fact that we’re going full-time presents us with a momentum and excitement that counterbalances what we might have experienced had we already been more established. But, knock on wood, we’re in pretty good shape right now.
FW: What’s it like balancing the demands of being both an artistic director and choreographer? TM: Depends on what day you ask me. Some days it’s really difficult. But I think we’ve benefited from creating this company slowly and doing three summers — I learned a lot from that process. I’m really making space for my role as creative director of the company, because when there’s so much other stuff to get done, it’s very easy for that role to get sidelined — and how absurd is that?
I’m definitely an idealist and I had very lofty intentions, but [the company] is exceeding my expectations so far. I think part of it is that I’ve taken a lot of care with hiring and making sure that the dancers are the kind of people who are open to this experience. I’m asking them to be incredibly vulnerable; when you start to explore the depths as an artist, a lot of things come up. And they end up meeting me way more than halfway.
FW: How did you decide on Boise as a home base? TM: The response of the community was one of the big reasons we wanted to move here. They were going out of their way to make it happen. There’s not a lot of existing state funding for the arts, but at least there’s the desire to move the city in that direction. Right now it just feels like a frontier land; it feels like a very American thing to move here. If you go to New York City or San Francisco, they’re already very well served by dance. It’s not serving this country to keep all of our great arts localized in a few cities.
FW: You’ve said that you wanted to explore the question of why dance matters and how it can serve people. What have you come up with so far? TM: One thing is to not be too snobby about how dance is happening in popular culture right now, like on reality shows. It’s not my taste, but it’s certainly getting people’s attention and getting them to feel more connected to dance. My dad watches Dancing with the Stars, and he’s from Kansas; he grew up on a farm. [The shows offer] a certain amount of accessibility in terms of showing what the process is about and letting people feel connected to the individuals. So I’m taking a lot from that in creating as much accessibility as possible; for instance, letting people take ownership of who the dancers of this company are and feeling that they’re within reach.
FW: Are there any ballet choreographers working today who you particularly admire? TM: I don’t see a lot of dance because I don’t want to be influenced by it; it doesn’t serve anybody to keep repeating the same things. But when I was in San Francisco, I spent a lot of time watching Alonzo King, and his process taught me a lot. He is brilliant at getting dancers to a very authentic place.