The Trey McIntyre Project will bring its unique style of contemporary ballet to Kingsbury Hall this week. It's easy to see that this isn't a company that rides on its laurels: All three of the ballets on the program were choreographed in 2012, including "The Unkindness of Ravens," which premiered earlier this month at New York's highly acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music.
"Ravens" is the culmination of DanceMotion USA, a yearlong cultural-diplomacy tour sponsored by the State Department and Brooklyn Academy of Music. McIntyre's dance company was chosen to collaborate with dance companies in Vietnam, China, the Philippines and South Korea.
So it may surprise some in the Salt Lake City audience to know that the company, founded in 2008, is based just a five-hour drive away in Boise.
Before McIntyre and his fervently supportive staff launched the company, the 40-year-old choreographer's résumé included making ballets for companies from Houston to New York and Moscow to Santiago. One of his last works to be performed in Salt Lake City was "Like a Samba," which the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performed in 2005 at Kingsbury Hall.
That McIntyre's company landed in Boise wasn't a random choice, said executive director and co-founder John Michael Schert. Founders researched cities across the country, and Boise jumped out as the place to begin "a social experiment to see how an arts organization could truly impact a community."
He and other company members admit they enjoy the star factor of being local celebrities recognized by residents and dance fans as they're out and about town. Another fringe benefit the dance company enjoys is the support of community and business leaders. "Boise has no professional athletic teams," Schert said. "They have put dancers and artists forward as their celebrities."
The Boise Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study provides evidence the experiment is working. In a city with a population a little over 200,000, the nonprofit arts and culture business is a $48 million industry, supporting 1,602 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $4.5 million in local and state government revenue, according to a June 2012 news release.
The company's communications manager Amy Atkins, a Boise native, said she was always interested in the arts but was intimidated by dance. "I always found myself wondering, should I clap now?" But since the Trey McIntyre Project came to town, Atkins said that "everybody not only has a favorite dancer, but they know where [the dancers] go for coffee."
Atkins attributes much of the community buy-in to McIntyre's work. "Trey's choreography explores what it means to be human and who can't feel connected to that?"
In the dance world, people remain fascinated by the story of a world-class company that moves to a small Western town. Dancers often are asked why they would leave a major city for Boise.
"My first thoughts on moving to Boise were pure excitement," said dancer Brett Perry, who has been with the company since 2008. "I didn't know a lot about the city, but was thrilled to be starting a new job at Trey McIntyre Project and moving out West. I knew it would be different from living in New York City, but I was excited about the change."
The company maintains an active national and international touring schedule; when at home, the dancers are taught by prominent guest choreographers, which makes the city feel like a regional cultural hub. The company has a $2.2 million annual budget and offers dancers a 33-week contract.
"We have a very deep love for this community," Schert said. "It's unique that we're here, but we respect and want to reflect the values around us being entrepreneurial, creative and proud."
When Schert first labels McIntyre as "the greatest American choreographer in the past 30 years," it sounds like hyperbole. But Schert then explains how McIntyre looks for inspiration all around him. "He sees the details of a culture or a society through its nuances how people talk, how the punchline to a joke was delivered," Schert said. "That is how he is inspired as an artist. So I think there is a relevancy that filters into his work."
Additionally, McIntyre walks the walk of tying dance to the community. While in Salt Lake City, the company will be busy offstage, teaching master classes, giving school performances and visiting a senior center for a 30-minute performance (in casual dress and tennis shoes) and a workshop on therapeutic dance.
"This is the first time we have taken performers to a senior center to reach seniors who would otherwise not be able to see this performance due to barriers like mobility," said Robin Wilks-Dunn, education director for Kingsbury Hall. "It is part of our larger mission to expand audiences and bring the arts to populations who rarely get a chance to participate."
And the Trey McIntyre Project is more than happy to oblige.
Dance inspired by the West
P The Boise-based Trey McIntyre Project brings new works to Salt Lake City.
When • Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $19.50-$24.50-$29.50 (plus handling or facility fees), $10 for students, $5 for U. students; at 801-581-7100 or kingtix.com
More • Free parking at Rice Eccles Stadium with shuttle service to Kingsbury
About the company • www.treymcintyre.com/home