Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Trey McIntyre on pointe


Trey McIntyre is one of a new generation of choreographers who combine the best of classical ballet with contemporary music, motion, and aesthetics to create an original canon of contemporary dance. He’s created works for American Ballet Theatre, Stuttgart Ballet, and Ballet de Santiago in Chile, and maintained a long-standing position with Houston Ballet, as well as Washington Ballet, Ballet Memphis, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. In 2003, Dance Magazine named him one of “25 to Watch.” In 2004 he founded the Trey McIntyre Project — a 10-member troupe that he calls his Dream Team — with dancers John Michael Schert and Anne Mueller as a vehicle for national performances and program development. His original works now number more than 60, including 2006’s A Day in the Life, based on the Beatles’ catalog.

The three TMP founders will be in San Antonio August 15-17 conducting a Master Class as part of Summer Dance, a two-week intensive dance camp sponsored by the San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet and Connally’s Dance Workshop.

Trey’s work is referred to as ballet more often than modern or contemporary dance. Are those relevant distinctions any more?

Anne Mueller: Trey was trained as a classical dancer himself, so I think this is the clearest way to distinguish choreographers from one genre to another. He almost always wants the women in pointe shoes. If you are on pointe, you are dancing “ballet” no matter how contemporary the movement vocabulary is.

I think the distinctions are relevant. Nearly every ballet company in the world has some mix of classical and more contemporary works. What distinguishes a more traditional ballet company from a contemporary one is the amount of contemporary work there is in the repertoire, and also how “contemporary” that work is. Think of it as a long line, drawn from classical to modern. There are many points along that line. I think the cross-pollination has been essential to the growth and relevance of the art form. 

John Michael Schert: Classical ballet has this long, time-tested history. We’re all part of that, and there are still choreographers working in a classical style. But we’re also seeking to change what ballet is, so it’s part of our time as well.

One of my colleagues used to say that modern dance has all these great ideas but no set form, and ballet has all this great form but not many ideas. Contemporary ballet is kind of a mix of these, incorporating the form and technique of classical ballet with the ideas of modern dance.

As a dancer, what’s the appeal of Trey’s work and of TMP in general?

AM: He’s constantly in a state of exploration with movement vocabulary. Trey identifies “moving with a sense of internal motivation” as being central. I feel he has a specific goal or effect in mind with each movement. He encourages us to be creative, as long as it doesn’t lose the clarity and detail of the movement. His choreography is intensely musical, in that the rhythm of the steps has a specific design that doesn’t just follow the obvious melody or rhythmic components of the music. And the other dancers are absolutely magnificent, as artists and as people.

As a dancer, it is our job, our role in the artistic product, to be the most adaptable and articulate tool possible. I think it’s essential to him, personally and artistically, to continue to challenge us as well. I imagine that as soon as he feels we’ve really “gotten” something, it’s time to move forward and be challenged in a new way.

JMS: He takes classical technique and he breaks it apart into new forms.

Trey, how has the TMP experience influenced your work in general?

Trey McIntyre: I hold these dancers to a very high standard. Not just technically, the challenge is more for the artist in them. They all work at a very high level in that way. They are required to be present on a daily basis in a way that is vulnerable and brave. Because the dancers are functioning at this level, I have to give the same amount of myself. This allows the work to go deeper and explore areas I wouldn’t have the capacity to explore without them.

You had a lot of success from a very early age, but you’ve been doing this for close to 20 years now. At what point did you feel your work had truly come into its own?

TM: I came to a realization about five years ago that any limits in life are self-imposed. When I walk into the studio, there is literally no limit to what is possible. I had always understood that in a refrigerator-magnet sort of way, but it wasn’t until I could understand it on a core level that the dances I was making began to flourish. •

For more on TMP, including video clips, see For more info on Summer Dance, see, or call (210) 656-1334.

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