Art Works Blog

Project Boise

Artistic Director Trey McIntyre and Trey McIntyre Project dancer Alison Roper during rehearsals for Go Out. Photo by Basil Childers

Trey McIntyre is one of ballet's busiest choreographers working today. Since 1995, when he was named choreographic associate for the Houston Ballet, he has created 80 ballets and worked with companies across the United States and the world including Stuttgart Ballet (Germany), Ballet de Santiago (Chile), American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Washington Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Memphis Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

He's also choreographed for his own company, Trey McIntyre Project, which became full-time in 2008. Seemingly to defy the assumptions that a ballet company must be in a major urban center, McIntyre chose instead to base his company in Boise, Idaho, which Rocco visited last week as part of the Art Works tour.

I spoke recently with McIntyre about that decision and what it?s been like to nurture ballet in Boise.

NEA: My first question is one I know you've been asked many times in the last two years. Why did you settle your company in Boise?

TREY MCINTYRE: John Swarthout, a friend from my days at North Carolina School of the Arts and currently the director of a terrific children's dance program in Boise, had a lot to do with it. When the company was putting together its first summer tour, he insisted that we stop in Boise. But there was no presenter there [to book the company]. Undaunted he said he would figure it out.  And he raised the money to bring us in. We came back the next two summers.

Then, when I decided to make the company full time and was looking for a permanent home, there were 10 cities I was considering pretty seriously, some with handsome offers from the local foundations. But they came from cities like San Francisco and New York, places well served for dance.

But part of the company culture is to ask ourselves daily, aside from creating the work, why are we here at this point in history? Truly, what are you serving by having a dance company in America at this point in time?

Making dance is part of the culture in Europe, but we don't have that same benefit here. So our reason for coming [to Boise] was to create that context, to come to a place with a comparatively young arts community, to be a pioneer, to help the dance community and the whole community. It felt more American.

We often hear this lament about the arts not being valued in small communities and the greater cultural friction from differing values from the coasts to the middle of the U.S. But if communities don't have access to great art on a regular basis, if it's not a part of their daily life, then why on Earth would they find value in it? If we had decided to base ourselves in a major American city, then we would not be contributing to the possibility of making dance truly American. For all Americans.

NEA: And after two years, how does it feel to be in Boise?

MCINTYRE: The actual production (of work) is easier, less expensive, and more supple. You can get things done. For myself, I don't need to be around dance artists. As a creator of art, I like to learn from other kinds of artists—visual artists, writers, comedians. In fact, I'm working with two visual artists at the Modern Art Hotel and Bar, a transformed Travelodge, on a video and live performance installation project. The three of us are truly collaborating and learning a great deal from each other. You know, there is a "can do" spirit in Boise that is really infectious!

NEA: How does the landscape of Boise affect you?

MCINTYRE: I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, a city with a similar sense of space and openness. It has a grounding effect on me. Something about the proximity to the foothills, people are more connected to where they are. It?s very nurturing to work from that perspective.

NEA: Describe your experience becoming part of the arts community in Boise.

MCINTYRE: There's a sense of humility here. It's not a boastful place. But that does not preclude a high standard and passion for doing great things. It's also an incredibly healthy city with most people involved in hiking or biking. I have spoken to a lot of people who have become fans mainly by identifying with the athletes on stage.

Our performances have been like a rock concert—jam-packed with cheering fans. They get it and love that we are here. They've been so welcoming at all levels, it seems like a big hug every day.

We've not only been welcomed as members of the arts community, but of the greater community as well—asked to sit on think tanks and help advise in the potential future of the city. It's exciting as an arts organization to truly be a part of the growth of our city.

NEA: You mentioned in another interview that for you and the dancers, "we take the 'Projects' part [of the company name] very seriously." Say more about that. MCINTYRE: It means that we stay nimble and are never stuck in one concept of what a company should be. For now, our main focus is what we put on stage, but everyone in the company will snap to it and engage in whatever project we are doing. They stay curious and open-minded.

Also, if one day soon it no longer makes sense to continue to do performances on a proscenium stage, we'll stop. It's not core to our mission.

You know if I could impart one thing to the arts world it would be that there is nothing but opportunity in the change that is happening in the world. The giant paradigm shift that seems to happen on a nearly daily basis signals one of the most exciting times in history for artists and communicators. It?s quite natural to be scared of change, but to have the quiet to see the world with a spirit of abundance and possibility can shift the conversation very quickly.

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