presented by Cal Performances
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
March 21st, 2014
Spring is all about change, growth and rebirth. This was particularly apparent over the weekend as Cal Performances presented Trey McIntyre Project for a two night engagement. Much was new – the program featured the world premiere of “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction” (a Cal Performances co-commission) and the West Coast premiere of 2013’s “Mercury Half-Life”. But amongst these firsts was also a strong sense of finality - this Cal Performances’ appearance was one of the West Coast stops on the company’s farewell tour.
It came as no surprise that McIntyre’s new piece, “The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction”, was inspired by the illustrations of Edward Gorey. Between the make-up, costumes (by Bruce Bui), puppets and props (by Dan Luce and Michael Curry), “The Vinegar Works” looked like a dark fairy tale that had sprung to life. A four-part theatrical spectacle, the vaudevillian, spooky, and sometimes comical fantasy land was inhabited by an outrageous cast of characters. Leading the audience through the piece were two recurring figures – an orchestrating grim reaper and a boyish emcee. The music was a perfect dramatic match; the puppets, completely astonishing and totally imaginative. And, the entire company took on the personas of their gothic, otherworldly creatures to great technical, artistic and narrative success. “The Vinegar Works” was full of McIntyre’s dynamic, athletic movement, though something was missing. With the exception of the three cloaked men in the final segment, the choreography needed more eccentricity and outrageousness to match everything else onstage. Overall the piece was a rousing success, but the movement really was overpowered by the other theatrical elements.
Lots of dance companies have a piece in their repertory that features one artist’s or one band’s music. But in that group of danceworks, some compositions soar above the others, gaining legendary status: Twyla Tharp’s “Deuce Coupe” (to the hits of the Beach Boys), the Joffrey Ballet’s “Billboards” (a tribute to Prince), and now, Trey McIntyre’s “Mercury Half-Life”.
A revue-style work set to songs
performed by Queen, “Mercury Half-Life” mixes dance and music with a contemporary
flair. Not fusion, not neo-classicism, this fifty-minute tour de force exemplifies
McIntyre’s visionary genius – his ability to marry music and movement with guts
and brilliance. A myriad of dance genres were present including tap, ballet,
modern, jazz, contact improvisation, acrobatics, lyrical and social dance.
Brett Perry set the bar extremely high with his opening tap solo (to “Bring
Back That Leroy Brown”). With a combination of rhythm phrases and old-school
performance tap, Perry brought percussive dance and precision showmanship to
new heights. All the vignettes were phenomenally choreographed and expertly danced,
though Ryan Redmond’s solo in “Another One Bites the Dust” was another standout
|Trey McIntyre Project in "Mercury Half-Life"|
Photo Credit: Trey McIntyre