Over the 80-year history of Jacob’s Pillow, audiences have had their favorites. These days, it’s the Trey McIntyre Project, one of the most charming contemporary dance ensembles around. Moreover, the company got its legs at the Pillow, first performing there in 2005, then as a project.
Led by McIntyre, the ensemble has since matured into a unified, stylish and world-class representative of the art.
Of course, McIntyre is grateful for the Pillow’s support. And at each appearance here, he offers a world premiere. This time, it is “Ladies and Gentle Men” inspired by the Marlo Thomas book and TV show “Free to Be . . . You and Me.”
Trey McIntyre Project
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.
HOW MUCH: $70 and $64
MORE INFO: 413-243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
As in his last world premiere at the Pillow in 2008, “Leatherwing Bat,” McIntyre draws from the sweet innocence of childhood. Guided by songs and stories from the show, he composes a seminarrative suite that touches on the exuberance of youth as well as the pangs of growing up in a cynical and prejudicial world.
While based on a universal premise, “Ladies and Gentle Men” is uneven. The dance gets a rollicking start with Benjamin Behrends, Ryan Redmon and Travis Walker. Wearing 1960s style suits, Redmon and Travis push and pull on Behrends in “Williams Doll.”
Here, McIntyre’s fresh and honest style shows itself. It’s athletic, but not muscular. His dancers are supple, able to morph into headstands, chest-leading leaps and slides across the stage with ease. Their easygoing ways are appealing and accessible.
The next section, “Girl Land,” feels yet unformed, as if McIntyre is uncertain exactly how to enter this mysterious landscape with party-dress-wearing dancers Chanel DaSilva, Rachel Sherak and Ashley Werhun.
McIntyre mostly hits his mark with such songs and stories as “My Dog is a Plumber” and “Dudley Pippin and His No-Friend” because he has a knack for inhabiting youth. Even though “Ladies and Gentle Men” points out the flaws of the adult world, he doesn’t stoop to bitter sarcasm but shows the audience uninhibited youthful delight.
He achieves this again, with a tinge of sadness, in “Leatherwing Bat” to music by Peter, Paul and Mary. John Michael Schert is the central figure in the title song, in which he transforms into the creatures of flight with McIntyre’s trademark athleticism tinged with quirky gestures.
From joy to sadness
The statuesque Schert also leads the way in the buoyant “Going to the Zoo” with Brett Perry, Elizabeth Keller, Redmond, Sherak and Werhun and portrays the playful dragon in “Puff.” But as he fades away at the end, a heavy mournfulness of losing childlike magic for adulthood hits home.
McIntyre’s more serious side reveals itself further in “Bad Winter” to music by the Cinematic Orchestra and “Pennies from Heaven” sung by Arthur Tracy. The piece, with DaSilva in a solo, and Walker and Lauren Edson in an emotive duet, crushes romantic notions of love.