Boise, Idaho’s Trey McIntyre Dance Project gave a feel-good performance at Northrop Auditorium on Tuesday night — even though one of their pieces was inspired by the delightfully macabre sensibility of writer/illustrator Edward Gorey.
In “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction” (2014) McIntyre animates Gorey’s tales through a sparkling hybrid of ballet and contemporary dance. Bruce Bui’s meticulously rendered costume design pairs well with beautifully crafted puppets and props by Dan Luce and Michael Curry.
In Gorey’s pen-and-ink world the characters are often in peril, as spelled out in the “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” section, which has Brett Perry kicking up his feet to a recorded narration by actor Alan Cumming (in full fiendish voice) that lists from A-Z how 26 children meet their untimely ends (bears, tacks, peaches, etc.).
McIntyre also showcases Gorey’s signature style by using his lively choreographic sensibility to blend horror and whimsy. In “The Beastly Baby” scene for example, John Speed Orr is a roly-poly egg-shaped incubus who no one wants to have around, including his dismayed parents. A magnificent bird puppet swoops in to peck at him.
“The Deranged Cousins” section gives the mischievous Travis Walker, Ashley Werhun and Rachel Sherak an opportunity to turn playtime into a funeral. “The Disrespectful Summons” is a roundup of all of Gorey’s ghoulish citizenry, dancing under the dark shadow of a towering skeleton-faced puppet — Death itself, with a sly smile.
Speaking of sly, the evening also featured McIntyre’s “Mercury Half-Life” (2013) set to the music of Queen. Perry’s tap-dancing to the late Freddie Mercury’s operatic voice is an unqualified treat, as are many of McIntyre’s kinetic interpretations of the hit rock songs.
The dancers wear white costumes that look like cricket and tennis-gear combos and they dance with the sort of full-on abandon and glittery attitude that tunes like “We Will Rock You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” demand. Chanel DaSilva is a particular standout. While McIntyre overindulged in using too many songs, the work is an eloquent tribute to Mercury’s legacy.
Last year McIntyre announced that the troupe is ceasing full-time operations, although he will continue in dance as well as photography, writing and film. It’s a loss for those of us who saw the company for the first — and sadly the last — time.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.