Discovering what Death most desires
Death is a red peacock of a dancer, in the world but not of it. Sunday evening, members of the Trey McIntyre Project performed the world premiere of “Go Out” for the opening night of the Vail International Dance Festival. The piece told a seductive story to the audience of 1,697.Choreographed for the festival by Trey McIntyre, “Go Out” is as much about the themes snaking through old-time bluegrass and spiritual music as it is about the movement on stage. The title of the piece speaks to souls leaving the world. Dressed in vintage clothes, the dancers leapt and loved their way through life. They mourned a dead friend, they wooed one another. When Alison Roper appeared as Death on stage, the tone of the dance didn’t change much. Life simply went on. Dressed in a sleek red ball gown cut away in the front, she moved with grace and purpose, beautiful and apart and ominous. Sleight of hand here, steely look there, she harvested souls with impersonal poise.
Everything changed with her solo to Ralph Stanley’s “I’ll Remember You in My Prayers.” The chorus goes:Go where you will, on land or on seaI’ll share all your sorrows and cares
And at night when I kneel by my bedside to pray,I’ll remember you love in my prayersAn incongruous song for a dance by death, but this is no stereotypical grim reaper. With arms swinging and legs stomping in a pagan almost-tantrum, she showed desire and lust for what she could never have: life.
Still, she was a sneaky bitch – part siren, part warden – stepping between couples and moving one off to the side, toward their demise. But towards the end of the piece she was dancing with them, too, in fleeting moments, unable to help herself. She, too, knows about appetite, about need.The 11-song dance ended in a crescendo of Stanley’s “O Death.” Joined by company member John Michael Schert, Roper egged him on. Her movements made promises, but despite moments of surrender, he never gave himself over completely. It didn’t matter; Death was in control. In this divine game of cat and mouse, only one creature can reign. Few are ever ready to cross that line. And so in a whirl of hope and despair, Schert was sucked into Death, only to be belched out an inert corpse at the feet of the viciously beautiful monster. The audience was both stunned and appreciative, and stood in ovation of the dance troupe. The Vail International Dance Festival continues with a dynamic lineup through Aug. 13. For more information, visit http://www.vvf.org.