Robust American Love


Oregon Arts Watch

“a small American masterpiece”

The Washington Post

“Thank goodness for the dancing. The first piece was Trey McIntyre’s “Robust American Love,” created last year and performed by five members of Portland-based Oregon Ballet Theatre in loose blue jackets and open-front gowns. The costumes underscored the swoony, haunting nature of the steps and the music, recorded by another Seattle folk band, Fleet Foxes.

Most affecting was a solo performed by Alison Roper, a dancer with such supple facility she could be a separate species. But there was a tender acceptance of human frailty in McIntyre’s choreography for her, with its ever-shifting emphasis on different parts of the body: now the arms, silky and light; now the feet, stuttering, hesitant; then shoulders, exposed and vulnerable. He knows how to hit all our pleasure buttons, showing us our own form in recognizable movements, turned into an expression so smoothly connected and ethereal it feels like smoke.”

The Oregonian

“McIntyre’s work, for five dancers, snaps the audience from its reverie. A sly take on frontier America pre-Civil War, it’s set to the old-timey melodies of Seattle’s Fleet Foxes and danced with sharpshooter attitude. Melissa Schlactmeyer’s costumes are inspired, if subversive: vaguely regimental tailcoats worn open over leotards that leave little to the imagination.

Forcefully quirky, McIntyre’s movement syntax turns from teasing footwork to jaw-dropping caught leaps. Soloist Javier Ubell, quick on his feet, sparks the stage throughout, and fi the final image of a triumphant pioneer woman veers towards Broadway, McIntyre’s inventiveness lingers”

Dance Magazine

“The pace picked up with Trey McIntyre’s Robust American Love, the evening’s second world premiere. Just as he did with the Peter Paul and Mary folk songs of 2008’s Leatherwing Bat, McIntyre distilled the emotional essence of Seattle’s rootsy Fleet Foxes to create an effective, and affecting, dancescape. The idea here was pre Civil -War America and an open-hearted sense of adventure. It began with the ensemble in brief repose (sans pointe shoes and wearing denim tailcoats over nude unitards). Then soloist Javier Ubell, who had a very strong night overall, set things in motion with a jump so sudden and unexpected that I didn’t entirely catch what it was—it shot up, sideways and down very quickly. The work as a whole was packed with the kind of memorable movement for which McIntyre has become known. The best bits included Michael Linsmeier gently hoisting a cross-legged Xuan Cheng under the armpits and rocking her gently from side to side just above the stage floor, or Roper, in a vulnerable solo, bent over double, her upper body obscured by her costume, pivoting sideways as the singer moaned about turning into a ghost.”

Oregon Arts Watch

““Dance like you’re real people,” Trey McIntyre told the original cast members of his Robust American Love when he made it on Oregon Ballet Theatre for the 2013-14 season. McIntyre’s take on the real people, particularly the women, who settled the American heartland is the centerpiece of OBT’s The Americans, the concluding repertory show of the 2018-19 season…

I have no regrets, however, about seeing Eva Burton’s opening night interpretation in Robust American Love of the role Alison Roper originated in what I think, after several viewings, is a small American masterpiece, set to the folk/rock music of Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. Burton’s fiercely realistic approach to the role is very different than Roper’s, and just as good. It is staggering in its dynamics as she dances her way through the piece, which takes its title from a poem by Walt Whitman. What McIntyre’s choreography is all about is the determination, the frustration, the weariness, the laughter and the sorrow of this country’s pioneer women.

With no point shoes in evidence, and in costumes that suggest the 19th century daily dress of both women and men, but which free the dancers’ legs for McIntyre’s expansive modern-accented classical vocabulary, the piece has a fast opening that introduces the characters and sets the scene. Michael Linsmeier an Xuan Cheng, reprising their roles in the premiere; Brian Simcoe and Franc, who like Burton are dancing this ballet for the first time; were clearly having a very good time with this part on Friday night. In a pas de deux with Franc, Burton dances aggressively, using her long cutaway skirt like a toreador’s cape. In her pas de deux with Simcoe, her passion is palpable, as is his; and in her solo, weariness is conveyed with the slump of her shoulders, determination with the squaring of those shoulders, and frustration with the tension in her dancing.

McIntyre’s pas de deux for Cheng and Linsmeier is laced with wit and charm, and that’s exactly how they danced it, playfully and skillfully: They’ve danced it before and they have it down pat, and it shows. And Franc, it goes without saying, performed his solo with the same conviction and artistry and technical skill he applies to all his dancing.”

Oregon Artswatch

“If “Stream” is laced with fatalism and resignation, McIntyre’s “Robust American Love” expresses the can-do, optimistic attitude of the pre-Civil War pioneers who settled the American heartland. Its choreography is firmly rooted in his own idiosyncratic melding of classical ballet and modern movement, with the seamless addition of a stylized square dance, all performed to the eclectic music of Seattle indie band the Fleet Foxes.

The women, Roper and Xuan Cheng, appropriately are not on point; this does not mean that Roper doesn’t deploy her long, space-eating legs like the true ballerina she is, every extension and developpé symbolizing the steadfast resolve of the women who built this country. McIntyre shows us a new side of Cheng, moreover, a gritty girlishness that is very appealing. For the men – Threefoot, Michael Linsmeier and Javier Ubell, who is an exuberant, quick-footed knockout in this piece – the movement is equally expansive. At one point Ubell is paired with Roper, pretty clearly the mother of this adventurous family, who lifts him, perhaps to calm him down, possibly to keep him from going off on his own, which unaccountably made the audience laugh.

Costumes are always an integral part of a McIntyre piece. These, denim tailcoats for everyone except Roper, who wears a cutaway dress worn over flesh-colored tights, are intended to symbolize the discarding of Victorian corseted clothing that was beginning to take place at this time. They worked well for the women; for the men, not so much: they looked like they’d been “pantsed.” Nevertheless, this short narrative ballet about one aspect of the American spirit left the audience smiling and feeling uplifted. And unlike “Billy the Kid,” its Americana genre predecessor created in 1938 by Eugene Loring and Aaron Copland, in “Robust American Love” nobody gets shot, symbolically or otherwise.”


  • Choreography: Trey McIntyre
  • Costumes: Melissa Schlactmeyer
  • Lighting: Michael Mazzola
  • Music: The Fleet Foxes
  • Project Details

  • Date of Premiere: January 1, 2013
  • Premiere Company: Oregon Ballet Theatre