Glacier National Park Inspires Trey McIntyre Dance at Wolf Trap

By Lisa Traiger
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, August 14, 2009

When choreographer Trey McIntyre visited Glacier National Park in Montana last summer, he was overwhelmed by the sprawling mountain terrain, dense forest, alpine tundra and 130 lakes. All told, the park covers more than 1,500 square miles, abutting Canada, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the southernmost portion of the Canadian Rockies.

"I got this feeling of vertigo, of being overpowered in this vast expanse," McIntyre says of his initial visit to scout locations for a dance video commissioned by Wolf Trap.

But what struck McIntyre even more was how even the most benign footstep, which might tread on new growth, could alter the pristine environment. It was that thought that informed "The Sun Road," his contribution to Wolf Trap's multi-year "Face of America" project. (The Glacier program is the sixth to integrate artists and a national park.)

"What was most interesting was focusing on the environmental issues going on with the park and what impact we as humans had," says McIntyre, who was initially skeptical that he could make a dance based on a national park.

His piece, which his Idaho-based ballet company, the Trey McIntyre Project, will perform at Wolf Trap on Wednesday, takes its name from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which winds 50 miles through Glacier National Park. To music by Paul Simon, Nina Simone and Young Grey Horse, five of McIntyre's company members appear on stage with a video backdrop of the same dancers shot earlier this summer in the park's fields, forests and scenic overlooks.

The program also includes live music and spoken-word artists representing the cultures and communities of Montana: Blackfeet Indian singer-songwriter Jack Gladstone; cowboy singer Rob Quist; Emmy-nominated pianist Philip Aaberg; and poet Victor Charlo, great-great-grandson of a Salish tribe chief.

" 'Face of America' is intended to capture the spirit and essence of our great national parks through the arts," says Terre Jones, Wolf Trap president and chief executive, who conceived of the project 12 years ago and accompanied McIntyre on the film shoot this summer.

The dancers in "The Sun Road" (four men in tuxedoes and one woman in a frilly red ball gown) appear out of place in the natural environment, and that's McIntyre's point.

"While there is a certain absurdity, not meant to be comic, about somebody in a tuxedo in the middle of the woods," he says, "I wanted to find out what it means when those two elements coexist, what that struggle means."

Face of America: Glacier National Park Wolf Trap, Filene Center, 1151 Trap Rd., Vienna. 877-965-3872. Wednesday at 8 p.m. $38 in-house; $10 on the lawn.

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