For the concluding piece on Friday’s program at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, McIntyre and his company of brave dancers headed outside for a multi-media finale on the plaza just as an eerie, chill fog drifted in from behind the center’s lantern-like concert hall and Serra’s soaring steel sculpture. That work, Ways of Seeing, had begun on the Segerstrom stage with some on-the-spot dance making by McIntyre and two of his company dancers. It proved engaging, but also dispensible, dance theater.  

What were the ways of seeing? Let me count them. You could see how dances are made with McIntyre guiding dancers through the construction of new choreography. You could see dancing projected both via video and in real time on a screen on the exterior walls of the courtyard. You could see actual dancing on a small circular stage and on platforms of sand with filmed versions of dancers leaping above real life dunes as a backdrop. And you could see dancers, up close, dancing their way through the standing crowd, backed by music from Led Zeppelin. But, in the end, it all added up to a literal statement of the title more than a probing, figurative one. Still, it was a worthy experiment and showed us just how enthusiastic the presenters in Costa Mesa are about building audiences with appealing, hip programming. 

The three additional works on the program were also freshly minted, all of them from 2012. I like compact chamber companies like McIntyre’s, mostly because of the newness of the choreography. Surprising things can happen when they take the stage. Newness is a plus. But that ethos felt unevenly applied on Friday, with the power and versatility of the dancers, more often than not, trumping the imprint of the choreography.

Striking the deepest chord on the program was Bad Winter, a two part work for a soloist (Channel DaSilva, who offered a commanding performance) and a closing duo danced with depth and commitment by Travis Walker and Ashley Werhun. The work pits the upside down, sunny optimism of the song Pennies from Heaven in Da Silva’s solo against the dysfunction of a couple experiencing end of the line cabin fever. The combination gave both views a powerful resonance.

Less successful was The Unkindness of Ravens, a SCFTA commission with additional collaborations by dancers from Korea National Contemporary Dance Company. It seemed more like a work in progress and suffered from technical problems. The ending sequence, set to Cash’s “Ring of Fire”,  felt more like a work expiring than ending. Ladies and Gentle Men (set to the music of Free to Be…You and Me) delivered visually appealing movement but weak themes. The three works all leaned heavily on chaotic musical collages of songs and lyrics. Noteworthy for Ladies and Gentle Men were Andrea Lauer’s costume designs for the six dancers which did much to boost the humor and gender busting commentary. Especially delightful, were the sleepwear units that replace the men’s suits and the 50’s style skirts and petticoats for the final section of the work. Here, the costuming felt more provocative than the dancing itself.

(Trey McIntyre Project was in residence at Segerstrom Center for the Arts for three concerts. The performance reviewed here took place on November 23, 2012. “Ways of Seeing” was supported by Segerstrom Center for the Arts.)


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