Performing Arts

May 23, 2014

Trey McIntyre Project offers unabashed and inventive dance

The farewell performance of the Trey McIntyre Project at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre does not disappoint.

It’s a shame that last Thursday was the second and final Kansas City appearance of the Trey McIntyre Project, a group unabashed and uncategorical, whimsical and assertive.

The dancers performed at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre during their farewell tour, presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series.

McIntyre, a native of Wichita, will dissolve, as founder and artistic director, the full-time dance troupe, focusing his attention on other artistic endeavors.

The program included two works, both choreographed by McIntyre. The movement incorporated various styles, with seamless transitions that exhibited the sort of effortless spontaneity of dancing in privacy, in one’s own space.

“The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction” premiered in March 2014 and drew from the work of artist Edward Gorey and his gothic, ghastly tales. The stage was draped in black, low footlights cast deep, overlapping shadows and the costuming reflected Gorey’s illustrations in hues of shaded graphite.

The first part was set to a scratchily recorded narration of the macabre ABC catalog of the Gashlycrumb Tinies’ deaths, danced as a humorous solo, part abstract, part direct, like jumping spread-eagle for the letter “X.”

The appearance of a huge skeletal figure introduced the tentative violin strains of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2. This piece melded caustic string timbres with reminiscent-sounding melodies that accompanied the remainder of the work, witnessing an ugly, tumbling, oversized baby carried off by a huge eagle puppet, a suicidal trio, and a ghoulish, funereal ensemble finale, all performed with a wicked sort of jubilation.

The music of Queen is so intrinsically vivacious, theatrical and emotionally engrained in our society it presents a challenge to choreographer and dancers to create added value. Yet “Mercury Half-Life” (2013) was successful, a stunning display of invention and stamina complementing the flamboyance and energy of a Freddie Mercury performance.

Backed by lines of neon lights, an opening tap solo matched the rhythmic patter of the vocals pumped aggressively into the house. Throughout, the movements reacted in sharp, unexpected ways to the invigorating music.

Organic gestures played out in complex sequences. Soloists emerged from the ensemble in individualized segments with fluid spines, spastic leaps, or tortured turns. The dancers pushed and pulled each other, stepping off or running over their cohorts’ backs, launched into silhouetted catches and lifts.

Costumes of white knee-high socks, shorts, and tailored jackets flashed red lining, another effective quirk in a performance that surpassed with beguiling surprises.

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