The program opened with Ma Maison, which premiered last year; followed by (serious), which premiered in February of this year; followed by the world premieres of Shape; and then closed with the western premieres of The Sun Road, a multimedia production McIntyre created for the Wolf Trap Foundation in Glacier National Park, Montana.
The 1,500-seat Pavilion—housed in the Sun Valley Lodge’s village of hotel accommodations and high-end shopping—provides for an experience somewhere between the Morrison Center and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. A huge fabric canopy shuts out the sky, but stops short of enclosing the tiered seating, exposing audiences and productions to the whims of Mother Nature’s contributions. The sundresses and shorts so appropriate earlier in the day were hidden under sweatshirts and wraps and several ticketholders juggled blankets and sweaters with their plastic glasses of wine and beer. Moths flitted across the stage in search of the source of the bright stage lights and the smell of brisk mountain air filled one of the five senses not often experienced when attending a dance performance.
A handful of technical glitches also made their debuts during the show, giving it a you-should-have-been-there feeling. Afterwards, snippets of “Did you see that flashlight?” and “I don’t think that song started on time,” buzzed through the departing crowds, parts of a unique experience to add to the stories when they talk about their night. And after seeing Shape (with music by Goldfrapp and the Polyphonic Spree), and The Sun Road (with music by Paul Simon, Native American drums and singing courtesy of Young Grey Horse and Nina Simone), they will talk about it.
As Shape opened, several of the roughly 800 attendees at Friday night’s performance gasped when the lights came up on TMP newcomer Lauren Edson standing in a flesh-tone T-shirt stretched to capacity by two huge, overfilled red balloons stuffed down the front.
Company artistic director Trey McIntyre said the idea for the seven-minute dance found purchase in the lyrics of a solemn Goldfrapp song, which opens the piece.
"I had really fallen in love with the song ‘Clowns’. It’s so weird; I don’t really listen to lyrics, I’m not interested in that. I’m more into the sounds and the emotion of the singer. But somehow, I became fascinated with [the song]. The lyrics, to me, are about someone talking someone else out of breast implants. I started thinking about that: ‘Only clowns / would play with those balloons. / … What do you want to look like Barbie for?’”
The image of the Barbie shape began to crystallize in McIntyre’s mind, an absurd shape that in no way conforms to a typical dancer’s figure. That absurdity was also reflected in the other two members of the trio, returning dancers Dylan G-Bowley and Annali Rose. G-Bowley—whose performances showed a new strength and sense of confidence not as readily apparent last season—had a red balloon attached to his head, and Rose performed with one stuck to the palm of each hand. The images elicited bursts of self-conscious laughter from the audience.
“What I really loved about it was that people let out their initial reaction. They woo-hooed and laughed and then it’s over with 20 seconds into it,” McIntyre said. “They accept the premise and go with it. There’s something liberating about it. I find [that dance] to be joyful and kind of loving as well.
Finishing out the cool August evening was the second night of the western premiere of The Sun Road with segments of live dance interspersed with film clips. On screen, the dichotomy of Chanel DaSilva, resplendent in a long, full red dress and G-Bowley, Jason Hartley, Brett Perry and John Michael Schert in formal tuxes with red cummerbunds as they danced through snow, forested areas and pebbles at the bank of a river was not lost on viewers. The dancers both exemplified and were dwarfed by the majesty of their surroundings.
McIntyre was tasked with creating a dance about the park, specifically, about the changing landscapes as the glaciers for which it’s named disappear. He said the beauty of Glacier was so seductive, but he soon found the story was more than just about that one park and more about how human beings change their natural world each time they take a step. And he found a voice as a filmmaker and another medium by which he can express his vision.
“To me, it’s such a different way of thinking about movement, film versus live,” McIntyre said. “It’s like it’s a different form to me … I could be much more improvisational with the dancers when creating the film, so I could talk about what the impact is we were trying to get at and give them a framework and then give them a lot of freedom with it.”
McIntyre had never seen an integration of film and live dance that he liked because he looks at dance and film in such different ways. As a choreographer and artistic director, he had shied away from combining those mediums. This commission, however, forced him to consider how they would relate to each other and he said he really enjoyed the process and will employ it again in the future.
The company begins touring early next month but will return to perform in Boise on October 17. Visit treymcintyre.com for more information.