"For truth to tell, dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education: dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with pen- that one must learn how to write." Friedrich Nietzsche
The Dance Enthusiast in Philadelphia: Yin Yue and Trey McIntyre in Action with BalletX
As BalletX Unveils its Winter Series 2016
BalletX: Winter Series 2016 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St.
February 10-14, 2016.
For tickets call (215) 546-7824 or go to www.balletx.org
Choreographer: BalletX Co-Founder Matthew Neenan, Trey McIntyre, Choreographic Fellow Yin Yue
Pictured above: BalletX's Caili Quan and Richard Villaverde rehearsing Yin Yue's One Heartbeat Above One Shadow Below
Though snow from Jonas, the blizzard of 2016, is piled high outside the door, inside their steamy rehearsal studio the dancers of BalletX, Philadelphia’s contemporary dance company, are busily learning three brand-new dances for the company’s Winter Series 2016. The choreographers, Matthew Neenan, BalletX co-founder; Trey McIntyre, nationally-known choreographer; and Yin Yue, BalletX’s first Choreographic Fellowship winner, are focused and business-like.
The day I visit, Yue was introducing the dancers to her unique movement style. She calls it FoCo, because her work combines Tibetan and Mongolian folk rhythms with Chinese classical dance and contemporary twists. Some of it resembles the work of martial artists. For the BalletX dancers, it's unfamiliar territory.
“I like grounded, heavy, physical movement,” Yue says, as she experiments on herself, working and reworking phrases until they feel right. Though there are folk elements in the choreography, Yue points out, “ We’re not studying folk dance.” The choreographer is looking for a “funky vibe.”
“When I see a show, first I see the movement, then how it’s executed, the space, the music and then the story,” Yue says.
The dance she is creating for BalletX though is heavy on story; called One Heartbeat Above One Shadow Below, it describes an individual's journey through memories after his death. “It’s dark and dramatic,” Yue says with a knowing smile.
Yue, who hails from Shanghai, China came to the states in 2006, a result of what she refers to as a “sequence of coincidences.” After completing her BFA at Shanghai Normal University, the dancer knew she wanted to expand her training. Her first thought was London, but Jin Xing, founder of Shanghai Jin Xing Dance Theatre, told her she must go to the United States. Research led her to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she earned an MFA in 2008.
Graduate school not only allowed Yue to deepen her craft, but it also taught her to showcase her own work. After graduation she decided to stay in New York. By 2012, she had created the Yin Yue Dance company. This March, her group will perform a 90-minute program in Germany. “It’s a real show,” she beams.
Yue, the first recipient of a choreographic fellowship funded by the Wyncote Foundation, is working under the mentorship of Trey McIntyre. When I visited, she was still discovering her ideas and the mentorship had only involved conversations about concept. Nevertheless, she was excited about the collaboration.
McIntyre has choreographed for many leading companies (including the American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, New York City Ballet, the Washington Ballet, Stuggart Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theatre) and is comfortable with the mentorship process. “My process is to work on opening up what’s truly happening inside [the artist],” he says.
He planned to poke and prod, and zero in on Yue’s message. “Only certain kinds of feedback are helpful. I don’t want to interrupt the process of creation, but I might say, ‘Look here, do you want to consider such and such.’ ” Because Yue is dealing with themes of death, he has asked her, “What does that mean to you in your own experience?”
The two choreographers work very differently, and walking between their studios is like walking between two worlds. While Yue focuses on a vocabulary of reaching arms and wishes the dancers to execute her steps exactly, McIntyre concentrates on walking and playing with phrases the dancers offer inspired by his imagery. Yue’s studio is filled with atonal music. McIntyre’s resonates with Amy Winehouse’s contralto.
McIntyre is in transition at the moment. He’s closed his Boise-based Trey McIntyre Project, and has been traveling. “Leaving the company was the best decision I ever made,” he says with a smile. “Starting it was the best decision at the time, and leaving it is the right decision for now.”
Big Ones, the piece he is developing for the Winter Series, grew out of a conversation with BalletX co-founders Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan with whom he has worked with in the past. “I love working with this company so much,” he says, “the dancers are so present and available from the first step.” His Big Ones, explores the challenge of creative artists who must balance their insecurities with their public personas.
McIntyre becomes philosophical as he watches Yue at work. “Why dance?” he asks. “Music transports us emotionally…” Why dance moves us, the choreographer muses, is harder to define.
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