Trey McIntyre Project and Korean Dancers at BAM


If you had to pick a dance company to represent the United States, the Trey McIntyre Project would be an excellent choice. This troupe, based in Boise, Idaho, exudes earnest American openness, despite its dazzling, ballet-rooted technique. And Mr. McIntyre is a highly gifted choreographer, with broad appeal.

In May DanceMotion USA, a cultural diplomacy program run by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the State Department, did send the company on a tour of East Asia. A result was friendship with the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company, and on Wednesday the two groups collaborated in a free performance at BAM Fisher.

What Mr. McIntyre has characterized as a “kindred relationship” between the two troupes emerged mainly as a refusal to let strong technique preclude fanciful theatricality. In “The Unkindness of Ravens,” Mr. McIntyre teamed three South Korean women with two American men. Sandra Woodall outfitted them all in black, with Egyptian-style beards and one sleeve-shaped set of wings that the dancers traded. Spoken jokes in English and Korean alluded to how hard it is to translate humor, but the dance itself, with its cartoonish, pelvic-thrusting devil-birds may have made that point too well.

It might have been seen as a riff on the work of the Korean company’s artistic director, Sungyop Hong. In Mr. Hong’s “Mosaic,” Yoonhee Lee posed like a swimsuit model with a ballerina’s leg extensions, stepping on tiles that men kept rearranging.

That conceit worked, but in Anlee Chang’s solo, “Flame,” the sparks she struck off her costume overwhelmed the dance. In “Can’t it really be helped?,” Mr. Hong’s best selection, the dancers waved plastic birds on poles but put them aside to muster a cross between a zombie folk dance and a music video routine.

Such glimpses into the Korean contemporary dance scene were welcome, but two works by Mr. McIntyre, performed by his company alone, deserved to close the program. “Bad Winter” began with the radiant Chanel DaSilva in a tuxedo jacket, capturing the desperate cheer of Arthur Tracy’s Depression-era recording of “Pennies From Heaven” with silent tap steps.

The dance’s second half might have been one of those adolescent duets that you see on “So You Think You Can Dance?,” except that Mr. McIntyre undercut the schmaltz with anticlimax and awkwardness. Ashley Werhun dragged Travis Walker by his T-shirt, then worked the shirt onto her own body before giving it back to him. That was a relationship in a nutshell, and a genre redeemed.

“Ladies and Gentle Men” triumphed with even more treacherous material. Set to a skillful arrangement of songs, stories and audio excerpts from the 1970s album and after-school special “Free to Be ... You and Me,” it managed to endorse the questioning of fixed gender roles while showing scarier complications. Men in suits right out of “Mad Men” and women in pretty dresses stripped down to children’s swimwear for a high-energy dance of gender-neutral utopia. Yet even here the message was ambiguous. Mr. McIntyre is no propagandist.

The New York Times

Nov. 15, 2012
by Brian Seibert

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