Live-Choreographing Lifts The Curtain On Trey McIntyre's Art

Dec 13, 2013

To make a ballet, choreographer and artistic director Trey McIntyre needs fresh musical inspiration. For this, he turns to Boise musician Kelsey Swope – whose stage name is Grandma Kelsey.

Sitting at the edge of the stage at the Trey McIntrye Project's Boise studio, she picks up her guitar and begins to sing "Autumn."

(L to R) Grandma Kelsey plays while Trey McIntyre choreographs a "Make A Ballet" piece with dancers Chanel DaSilva, Brett Perry and Ryan Redmond.
Credit Christina Johnson

As she does, McIntyre stands in the middle of the rehearsal studio. He stares intently at Grandma Kelsey as his mind begins to race. McIntyre's never heard this song before.

“She plays it once, and when I hear it that first time, my brain’s going computer style – ‘what is the meter of this?’ How many measures is she playing? What’s the arc of what she’s singing?’”

He takes all that into consideration as he brings three dancers on stage. This live choreography is what McIntyre calls “Make A Ballet,” and it's one part of a new kind of company performance.

McIntyre and his team are known for engaging with their audience, but this is one of the few times he has let fans watch his creative process. 

And for an artist as private as Trey McIntyre, that’s no small thing.

“I think artists are traditionally very closed with process, I certainly was before I started this company," says McIntyre. "But I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really energized about including people in the work that I do.”

The artistic director says letting fans peek into what is normally a sacred rehearsal space helps answer an important question.

“Why do we do what we do? What’s the point of this?" McIntyre asks. "To simply create the best possible work to me is not enough."

At six foot seven inches tall, McIntyre towers over dancers Chanel DaSilva, Ryan Redmond, and Brett Perry. He moves the dancers around the stage and they practice the steps as he directs them.

 McIntyre acknowledges most Americans don’t put dance high on their weekend activity list. But he says his company is trying to change that.

“Showing people how the choreographic process works has been the most effective. Because I think there’s the greatest mystery around that. And I think once that curtain is pulled back, people start to realize, ‘Oh, there are actually parts of my life that are kind of like that.’”

Audience member Shannon Davis-Jones has seen TMP perform on a large stage in Boise. But she says watching the dancers work with McIntyre in their studio -- just a few feet away from her -- is a whole different experience.

“The magic of his creativity coming out through the dancers bodies just like that – that was amazing," says Davis-Jones. "It’s like seeing a painter paint in their studio. ”  
McIntyre says that these “Make A Ballet” sessions do more than connect him with his audience. He says that collaborating on-the-spot with musician Grandma Kelsey and his dancers pushes his art further.

“I’m really motivated by surprise and things that will shock me into the moment. People say, ‘why do you keep adding things to make it harder?’ The things that make it harder actually made it easier, because the thing I’m battling more than anything is my own mind. By having music that I’ve never heard before – it takes all of my focus.”

In less than 20 minutes, Trey McIntyre and his dancers create a two-minute-long performance, complete with costumes. The audience gives them a boisterous standing ovation.

The Trey McIntyre Project will open its studio space in Boise for two more "Studio Sessions" this Saturday. "Make A Ballet" will be featured during both shows. Click here for more info.

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