See the Trey McIntyre Project this Wednesday at Wolf Trap

Choreographer Trey McIntyre bids adieu with his upcoming performance at Wolf Trap.

Trey McIntyre
Photo by Kyle Morck.

By Kate Masters

At age 44, Trey McIntyre stands at 6-feet, 6-inches, a towering Adonis with the lithe figure of a dancer. At age 11, Trey McIntyre was “a fatso,” a kid who “couldn’t put one foot in front of the next at music theatre auditions.”

From these humble beginnings and a Midwestern upbringing, McIntyre has become a prolific choreographer, whose innovative dances have earned glowing reviews from the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post, among others.

But he’s now hoping to jeté his way from ballet to the visual arts. Earlier this year, McIntyre announced that he plans to dissolve his contemporary ballet troupe and quit full-time choreography to focus on his collection of photographs and a documentary he’s titled Ma Maison.

As part of its farewell tour,  the Trey McIntyre Project is coming to Wolf Trap this Wednesday, June 11. The company will be performing two separate pieces –“Mercury Half-Life,” a performance set to the music of Queen, and “The Vinegar Works,” four dances based on the stories of illustrator Edward Gorey.

Along with the performance, McIntyre himself will teach an intermediate ballet class earlier that day from 10:30 to noon. We spoke to him about the farewell tour and his inspirations.


What drew you to Queen and their music as a vehicle for your program?

I’ve been really interested in different iconic pop artists. In this particular case, I had an agenda that I wanted to fulfill with the work. I like to close a program with something that’s really upbeat, but I got very conceptual about it and was really breaking down, well, what does it mean for an audience to be moved by a piece—why do we go to the theatre seeking that out? And so in the process of doing that, the music of Queen was a match for me. It’s such operatic, large scale, rousing music. It became a really interesting vehicle to achieve the end I was looking for.


And you focus on Edward Gorey in the second piece of your program—how did his work inspire you?

When we were on tour in New York, I had spoken to a friend who brought up the idea to me.  It’s not something that had really occurred to me before, but it was a match when he brought up the idea. I think it fits my sensibilities, and the challenges inherent in his work were really appealing to me. [Gorey] walks that line between adorable and sick in a way that’s so masterful, and holds your hands through a lot of very natural human fears in a way that’s actually, I think, very loving and inclusive. The challenge of trying to move that to a live performance was a big one, and one I thought was going to be really interesting.


Where do you draw the inspiration for your work?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. Everybody always makes fun of me because if I say I’m going on vacation, I usually work the whole time, but I love exploring and creating. For any work, I kind of sit down and dig through what’s going on with me right now. The Gorey piece, for example, reflects the final tour of my dance company, and the theme of death has been showing up a lot in the works I’ve been making lately. I’m just really understanding the idea of things ending and transition and the small deaths that we all experience every day.


Why did you decide to offer a ballet class in addition to the regular show the company is performing?

We do all kinds of different engagement activities in different cities. Master classes are certainly one of them. I don’t personally teach the master classes that often, but I’m doing this one because I have a huge fondness for Wolf Trap. When I was a kid, my mom used to take me there. I remember going and being so star-struck with the facility. I found it so magical. They’re an incredible venue and a joy to work with, and it’s been a really lovely relationship to be back there so many times during the course of our history, so it seemed to make a lot of sense.


Have your farewell performances been particularly meaningful?

In a way it’s luck, just that the scheduling is happening in this way and that we’re able to finish up at these incredible places that we have such a fondness for. The emotions for me personally run the gamut. On one hand, I’m very excited to move toward what’s happening next.  I think it’s the right time for this transition and I think amazing things will come from it, but at the same time, this has been my life for the past decade and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’m really drinking in these last shows and enjoying this time while it still exists.