BECKET - Recently a friend remarked that, given the economic instability that can often be part of an artist's life, one must be pretty brave to follow such a career path. But I think it's necessity, not bravery, that drives artists. They don't choose the life; it chooses them.
That said, it takes guts to take the reins like choreographer Trey McIntyre, who is launching his own company - the Trey McIntyre Project - as a full-time entity this week at Jacob's Pillow, after previously assembling pickup groups for performances during the off-season. The prolific McIntyre is much in demand among dance companies, having produced some 70-odd ballets since being named choreographic apprentice at Houston Ballet at the tender age of 19. It's perhaps auspicious that exactly that many years later - he's now 38 - McIntyre is leaping into the role of artistic director.
Wednesday's opening performance felt like finding a shiny new penny - lucky and hopeful. The dancers are appealing, eager performers: Moods and expressions look authentic, not pasted on; the dancers' training is candidly, easily displayed. There's no posturing - there's no time, given McIntyre's penchant for speed.
The program also highlights McIntyre's preference for walking on the sunny side of the street. Sometimes his works can be too much surface and not enough substance, but there's enough bite and edge to keep the program's three dances from simply evaporating without leaving an afterimage.
The lightest piece, the world-premiere duet "Surrender," gets laughs because of the unlikely pairing - Chanel DaSilva is a pink-gowned prom diva to Jason Hartley's helmet-wearing wrestling geek - and the wildly eclectic musical collage of Grand Funk Railroad, Tchaikovsky, and John Lennon. It all ends up fitting somehow, and that's the sweet point of this often wonderfully goofy dance: that convention may be safe, but it's not necessarily satisfying. DaSilva finally takes her heels off, Hartley his helmet, and thus metaphorically unveiled, they stroll off, DaSilva reaching for Hartley's previously too-icky/sweaty hand.
The theme of school-age awkwardness and playfulness continues in the other world premiere, "Leatherwing Bat," a piece for six dancers set to a selection of songs from the Peter, Paul and Mary album "Peter, Paul and Mommy." The long-legged John Michael Schert - a silky yet strong mover - and the compelling, poignant Brett Perry depict the tricky process that is adolescence. Perry is the yearning loner, tensely hugging his arms around his torso or gazing with melancholy at his more carefree peers, while Schert plays a more confident, independent type. "Leatherwing Bat" is infused with an optimistic camaraderie, as the other dancers try to draw Perry out of his gloom, even catching him up so he's lying horizontally in the human safety net of their arms.
The aptly-titled "The Reassuring Affects (of Form and Poetry)" is one of those great dances - like Bill T. Jones's "D-Man in the Waters" and Mark Morris's "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" - whose contemporary movement reinvigorates a piece of classical music. In this case it's Dvorak's sweeping "Serenade for Strings," and as with the folk songs of "Leatherwing," McIntyre demonstrates his keen musicality.
This 2003 piece for eight dancers puts the women en pointe, and while there's more formality here, McIntyre's movement is never constrictive. It's a truly lovely dance, serene yet unexpected. This is another gift of McIntyre's: Especially in his partnering, you can never guess where or how the dancers are going, but rather than feeling discombobulated, his movements are magically seamless.