Over dinner with McIntyre and John Michael Schert in the austere ambience of TaCaBi (one of the few downtown restaurants they hadn't before frequented) just days before the Massachusetts premiere, McIntyre explained how they had arrived at this juncture and in this city.
Having lived in New York, Portland and Houston, he and Schert were living in San Francisco when they made the decision to move to Boise and raise the bar on the Trey McIntyre Project.
TMP had performed here for three summers, and McIntyre fell in love with the low-key city and quality of life. He also saw it as an opportunity to shape an audience—something he said would be difficult to do in a city as large as San Francisco.
In hindsight, McIntyre was on the path to Boise for years.
"I danced with the Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1995 and then held a choreographic position. And then things just kind of took off," McIntyre said. "I started freelancing full-time and stopped dancing. The company [TMP] didn't start until many years later."
The decision to start off as a part-time summer company was an easy one.
"Dance companies function like a school year. Summers are generally off so dancers go on unemployment."
During those summers off, he said, he could put together his dream team, cherry-picking the very best dancers.
"We would come together and do a three-week residency at White Oak [a plantation in Florida], and then essentially a three- to four-week tour of summer festivals. That developed a lot of momentum really fast. There were so many [festivals and theaters] who only present during the year, who would say, 'We wish you had a full-time company so we could put you in our season.' But it's a lot more work. We went from six or seven work weeks to 35."
Funneling the energy spent freelancing and transforming a two-month season into a full-time gig was a scary prospect. But it was something that McIntyre definitely felt it was time to do. Hiring dancers, having them relocate to Boise, investing time and energy and possibly discovering someone isn't a fit are daunting tasks. But McIntyre seems confident.
"I took great care with hiring," McIntyre said. "We held open auditions in San Francisco and New York, but nobody was hired just from an audition. Some people did great jobs, but further [the] process of really getting to know them [was important]."
McIntyre taught class at The Juilliard School for several days and then held private auditions with those dancers he was interested in.
"I spent time talking to them and getting to know them, making sure they're the right kind of person. There are a lot of things about [the dancers'] brains beyond their talent that are really important to be a part of this company."
McIntyre emphasized that becoming part of his company is less about being able to do turns and jump high. He searched for dancers who posses a level of kindness and professionalism, but who are also brave and able to go to scary places as artists.
"I'm really excited about how many young dancers we have," he said. "We can be a part of shaping their ideas about being in a company and how they approach their technique. It's an optimistic and open perspective."
Schert, dressed in a pale pink T-shirt that highlighted the natural blush in his cheeks, spoke deliberately, his gesticulations a reflection of years of dance training.
"There's a level of responsibility that goes into birthing something like a company," Schert said. "And on top of it, it's all new to us, too. We moved our lives here, and then we asked 15 other people to move their lives here. That's a misconception; people think our dancers don't live here. They do. So we're responsible not just for their paychecks, which is a whole thing in itself, but the policies we're creating to make sure they're taken care of and that communication is clear, and people are able to express themselves ... all the things that go into forming an organization."
Schert explained that the onus of seeing to the day-to-day care of these young dancers, who are all new to the city, does not fall on McIntyre.
"As the leader of the company, he doesn't need to be involved in that," Schert said. "And my job as executive director is really to make sure we have the right staff and that I'm training them properly so that they can take care of the dancers, Trey and I included. I'm there for oversight and making sure things are going according to the vision of what this company is, but we're trying to move ourselves away more and more from the day-to-day business."
"John Michael has to wear a lot of hats for sure," McIntyre added. "It's one thing to be a colleague and another drastically different thing to be a leader and also being my partner at the same time. It's tricky."
In forming and developing the company, McIntyre said they took a lot of baby steps.
"But there comes a point when you can't take any more baby steps. You take a big one or you stagnate," he said. "And stagnant was not appealing. One more year of summer company and we might have just said, 'OK, we're done with this.'"
On the opposite side of that coin was not only the accountability of a full-time company, but the reduction of freedom and finances that McIntyre would face by giving up freelancing.
"I knew—but you really just don't know—the privilege of walking into a company and handing them a dance and then leaving. Now, I have to live with the repercussions of everything. I definitely prefer it; there's just a lot more to it."
For McIntyre, being the boss has little to do with power or pay. It has everything to do with challenging himself. Taking the company full-time and doing it from a home-base in Boise was something he never tip-toed around, and it's his willingness to face things head-on that makes him such a popular choreographer.
"I think something I specialize in is helping people through a roadblock. Finding those things that stop them from being their best artist and at the time their best self," he said. "It also helps me as a choreographer. When something is not right, my sensitivity to it is immediate and extreme whether it's the way something is working or the way [a dancer] is doing a particular movement.
"It's kind of a curse—but also a blessing—that I can't get around it. It's with me like a thorn in my foot until it's fixed. So, things just don't go unchecked. It becomes more of an emotional and shared journey as opposed to just making a really nice dance."
Thursday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m., McIntyre works with his dance company during a practice session. Open to the public, reservations required. Tickets are $15. Boise State Special Events Center, 1800 University Dr., 208-426-4316. For information, call 208-426-1709 or visit boisestate.edu/osher. Saturday, Sept. 20, Trey McIntyre Project's Boise premiere of the first program in its 2008-2009 series. 8 p.m., adults $45, $35, $20; juniors and seniors $35, $25, $10. For tickets, visit idahotickets.com. For more information, call 208-426-1609 or visit mc.boisestate.edu.