Gay couple creates breathtaking ballet with Trey McIntyre Project

Wearing different hats in a nonprofit arts company is a common way of life. Not only do Trey McIntyre and John Michael Schert serve multiple capacities in the ballet company Trey McIntyre Project, they are also partners outside of work.

The troupe, known for its contemporary ballet, makes a return visit to Atlanta April 10 after a successful trip here last year. Founded in 2004, Trey McIntyre Project was originally envisioned as a summer touring company. Response was so positive, says McIntyre, that it’s now a year-round, full-time company.  McIntyre is the choreographer while Schert serves as the executive director and one of the dancers.

Celebrated for its innovation, McIntyre’s work has been commissioned by companies ranging from American Ballet Theatre to Stuttgart Ballet to Ballet de Santiago in Chile. His ensemble of dancers has performed all over the world.

Their new show is comprised of three performances – starting with “Shape,” called an audience favorite by McIntyre, that incorporates issues such as gender and the human body.  The second is “Ten Pin Episodes,” a work involving 200 bowling pins. The finale is “Wild Sweet Love,” about a lonely woman’s search for love.

Valdosta, Ga., native John Michael Schert performs with the Trey McIntyre Project, the innovative ballet company founded by his life partner. (Courtesy photo)

Featuring music from Queen, Lou Reed, Roberta Flack and the Partridge Family, the performance will also be unique in that it will involve 15 dancers from the local Dance 101.

Performing in Atlanta is actually something of a homecoming for Schert. He is from Valdosta, Ga., and enjoys being able to perform in his home state.

“It was great last time we were here,” he says. “I can always count on a lot of support, friends and family coming.

Like McIntyre, Schert attended the North Carolina School for the Arts before embarking on a career as a dancer.

The two met in 2003 – ironically just after McIntyre had been named as one of People magazine’s Most Eligible Bachelors for that year.

“We met through a friend,” Schert says. “I’d seen his work before and was impressed with what he had been doing.”

Schert decided he wanted to work with McIntyre.

“Trey mentioned he wanted to start a company,” he said. “I thought it was the next evolution of dance. I wanted to do something new and innovative and I liked Trey’s ambitious spirit.”

According to McIntyre the two have a great professional relationship.

“There are so many benefits of us working together, but it does take a lot of focus,” McIntyre says. “We do realize the priority is the relationship.”

McIntyre stopped dancing in 1995 at a time that his choreography was taking off. He did, however, come out of retirement briefly in 2000.

Trey McIntyre Project
Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.
Rialto Center for the Arts
80 Forsyth St., Atlanta, GA 30303

Throughout his work McIntyre has dabbled in issues such as religion, love and relationships. McIntyre says that as he is preparing new works, “it’s important to speak with the most authentic voice I can. I can expose myself in ways that surprise me.”

It’s equally important for the project’s work to remain accessible, he says.

Though the company is on the road nearly half the year, their home base is in Boise, Idaho. McIntyre says there were offers from San Francisco and other cities, but they opted to have their headquarters in Boise deliberately.

“We wanted to be a pioneer and break new ground,” says McIntyre. “We are very much part of the arts fabric here.”

Being a gay man has certainly influenced Schert’s sensibility as an artist, he says.

“There is a lack of sensitivity and intimacy in America among men. Men are afraid of being intimate. I find that there is a lot of strength in being a well-rounded person. It affects who you are as a person and artist,” he says.

“I’m gay; I’m in love with a man. Some can find that limiting but I find it empowering. I get to own it and be unapologetic.”