In the world of dance performance, there is no “us and them,” there is only us: It takes both sides of the equation to make a performance work. That’s one of the points of “Gravity Heroes,” McIntyre’s newest ballet and the centerpiece of “Grounded,” which opened the company’s fourth season Saturday. It is one of the Trey McIntyre Project’s strongest programs to date.
He created “Gravity” in Boise with designer Andrea Lauer, who has worked on Broadway and collaborated with McIntyre on “Ten Pin Episodes” in 2008.
It’s an emotional earthquake of a piece, built with McIntyre’s now-signature inventive, athletic movement style that keeps you guessing what comes next.
“Gravity Heroes” is resonant, deeply personal and intriguingly crafted. The ballet blends McIntyre’s tense juxtaposition of tight, technical ballet footwork and explosive contemporary sweeping movement with deeply emotional content, beautifully expressed by the dancers.
“Heroes” follows dancer Brett Perry though a series of experiences that transform him. McIntyre explains the idea behind the ballet in a post-performance making-of video. It is inspired by people who manage to change their lives by defying the gravity (as in the force) of their situation and free themselves to follow a different path.
Lauer’s costumes — ’80s-inspired punk outfits; slick, shiny plastic-like body suits; and spare diaphanous vests that mimic wings — illustrate the transition from stasis to earthquake to new incarnation.
Perry makes the most of the opportunity to explode in the first section, battering donkey piñatas that descend from above. He runs and bats them with his hands, rips them apart. The anger and aggression subside and he’s left stripped to his body suit, ready to absorb new influences, which he receives from a layered and intense trio with Jason Hartley and Chanel DaSilva to Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover.” These three bonded in McIntyre’s “(serious)” in 2008 and are beautifully integrated here. Next, he watches John Michael Schert in one of his most alluring solos that makes use of Schert’s natural finesse and extension.
The final transition takes Perry past the footlights, off the edge of the stage into the realm of the audience.”
Choreographed by: Trey McIntyre
Costumes by: Andrea Lauer
Lighting by: Travis C. Richardson
Music: by Antony and the Johnsons, Tommy James & The Shondells, Benjamin Britten, Ray LaMontagne, Lorraine Ellison
Premiered: Aug. 8, 2011 by Trey McIntyre Project
Running Time: 27 minutes
Gravity Heroes was commissioned by the Vail International Dance Festival and underwritten by Katie Heil of Milwaukee, WI in honor of Ann Heil. Additional underwriting support provided by Donna and Donald Baumgartner of Milwaukee, WI