May 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm EDT | by David J. Hoffman
Trey chic

Trey McIntyre Project
8 p.m. tonight; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Washington Performing Arts Society
at Sidney Harman Hall
610 F Street N.W.
Tickets $25-$75, or

Trey McIntyre (Photo courtesy of Trey McIntyre Project)

When the Trey McIntyre Project performs tonight in Washington, viewers, obviously, will have a sense of what they’re in for. But that’s not always the case in Boise, Idaho, where the company is based.

The 41-year-old Trey McIntyre chose the unlikely locale after a nationwide search for a host city and, all things considered, found Boise the best fit. His dancers have made a splash there by launching what they call “SpUrgans” — spontaneous urban performances — where McIntyre says, “we will go into an office or into a park, or into a restaurant, do our dance and get out,” basically, guerilla-style dance done with a boom-box for music and flying feet and swiveling hips, startling observers.

The whole point of a “SpUrban,” he says, is to surprise, to connect viscerally and unexpectedly, site-specific however, seeing the dance environment writ large — to go directly where people live and work in the community itself. His dancers also perform at games of the Idaho Stampede, the local NBA team, where they sold 300 tickets to one performance.

This weekend’s performance, of course, will be less out of the blue.

At Harman Hall, McIntyre promises a high-profile presentation of three works, two of them — “Ma Maison” (2008) and “The Sweeter End” (2011)  — he choreographed to be performed to the recorded music he commissioned from the New Orleans jazz band, Preservation Hall, in two salutes to “the Big Easy,” a city he has grown to love.

The brightly colored “Ma Maison” costumes feature Mardi Gras-style skeleton costumes and the dance is inspired by ritual and celebration of both death and the afterlife. “The Sweeter End” premiered in New Orleans in February. The troupe will also perform “In Dreams” (2007), a darkly lyrical ballet he created for five dancers set to the music of Roy Orbison songs, including the eponymous “In Dreams,” a song McIntyre remembered from its use in the 1986 film by David Lynch, “Blue Velvet.”

McIntyre is famed already after a star-studded career of more than two decades as a choreographer, with his canon of more than 80 works of contemporary ballet, set to scores as varied as classical music (Beethoven and Chopin), rock ‘n’ roll (from the Beatles and Beck to Roy Orbison), folk (Peter, Paul and Mary) and jazz (Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

McIntyre says he never came out per se. His parents asked him about it when he was 14 and matter of factly started dating a boy. The Wichita, Kan., native established his dance career after leaving home at 17 for the Houston Ballet Company. By 19 he was hired, enjoying a long run there that lasted until 2008 by which time he had been working as a choreographer, his own dancing days ending in the mid-’90s.

McIntyre’s partner of eight years, 29-year-old John Michael Schert, met in New York and knew early on they’d form a company together. It began in 2005 as a summer touring company and was established in 2008 as a full-time company, now with 10 dancers.

The dancers — now five males (including Schert) and five females, salaried for 35 weeks a year and with full health benefits — are happily settled in Boise. Now in their third year there, they are also touring with upcoming concerts at Harman Hall in Washington tonight and Saturday, hosted by the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS), and were scheduled to participate in a community “engagement” outreach with the Washington Ballet School, Maryland Youth Ballet and the Duke Ellington School for the Arts.

The company will also host tonight a free warm-up class and WPAS-sponsored performance for local schools at Harman Hall of excerpts from the three dances to be performed there tonight and Saturday.

Since arriving in Boise three years ago, the city has taken the Trey McIntyre Project to heart, bestowing a grant of $25,000 on the company, by far the city’s largest arts award ever, and naming the Project its first official cultural ambassador. Affiliated with Boise State University, which is renovating a 450-seat campus theater to make it suitable for dance, and housed for offices and studio space at Foothills School of Arts and Sciences, McIntyre and the company’s dancers have become virtual rock stars, recognizable wherever they go and showered with free gifts.

In 2005, the company began as a summer touring troupe, until landing on its feet full-time in Boise three years ago. Its now funded on a $1.5 million annual budget and boasts a blue ribbon national board and an advisory council with stars like Shirley MacLaine, Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming, and Lar Lubovich, legendary artistic director of the Lar Lubovich Dance Company.

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