On opening night of the company's Moving Signatures concert series--a program designed to develop touring repertory for a chamber company and to offer opportunities for choreographers to work on a small scale--Thiessen was pure dynamite in Trey McIntyre's Speak. A playfully speedy dance, it was performed to rap songs punched out on the one hand by Tracie Morris, and on the other by Bloodhound Gang.
Impudent and angular, classical line thrown away, Thiessen high-stepped her way through a rapid opening solo and made it virtually impossible for Matthew Boyes to keep up with her in the duet that followed. If you looked hard, you could see that McIntyre had slipped more than a few classical steps into the foot stomps, but it was very subtly done. This sort of fusion is hard to bring off successfully, but McIntyre is on to something here that could be developed into extremely interesting work.
Vanessa Thiessen, partnered with smooth skill by Matthew Boyes, is the personality that sparks "Speak" -- shrug-shouldered, light-footed, insouciant and a little insolent; a defensive yet appealing outsider who plays out the bravado of the lyrics from the Bloodhound Gang's song "Shut Up": "I don't give a damn if you don't like me, 'cause I don't like you, 'cause you're not like me. . . ." Thiessen, an effervescent chameleon who can also be innocence incarnate, owns this role -- and the role is worth owning.
There was certainly no dancemaker remotely like Trey McIntyre, OBT’s resident choreographer. Of course, few choreographers anywhere are like him, which may help to account for why he is catapulting himself around the United States and Europe on commissions.
McIntyre’s fluency and expertise at shaping dance phrases is world-class. His musicality – that is, both his choice of scores and the way he stages them – is a joy. And his evident fascination with dance languages, which he treats with wit and respect – whether they belong to ballet, ballroom or hip-hop – is in desperately short supply internationally.
He makes real dances, with theme-and-variation structure and decided beginnings, middles and ends; and his storyless work conveys the illusion of storied worlds or atmospheres without, in fact, dramatizing them. Dancers, women in particular, thrive in his choreography. All they need to shine is to dance their best and be themselves. Vanessa Thiessen, in “Speak,” and Alison Roper, in the bossa-nova site “Like a Samba,” were simply wonderful. They projected a lightness, delicacy and exactitude that one associates with classicism, even though neither dance was a classical ballet.