Trey McIntyre has always wanted the Trey McIntyre Project to be more than just another inventive ballet-based dance company. He wants this project - founded three seasons ago - to be making contributions culturally as well as choreographically.

McIntyre's 10-member project arrived in Tucson Thursday with its concert in Centennial Hall set for Saturday. The company will spend a week in Tucson giving outreach performances through UApresents at two hospitals and for students K-12, as well as offering a master class for high school dancers.

One of McIntyre's favorite acts of random kindness is to have his dancers pop up unannounced in public places, coffee shops and offices. He calls these events "spontaneous urban performances," spelling them "SpUrbans."

Maybe you saw one Thursday. The company will be doing more today.

"The energy in these is so contagious," said company member Garrett Anderson, describing the crowd response. "It's a fun way to connect with different audiences, to get people to think about going down to the theater to see some ballet."

Anderson, who was born in Tucson, says dancing with the Trey McIntyre Project is "a lot more physical" than the classical ballet he danced during eight years with the San Francisco Ballet and two years with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Belgium. Other writers have noted that proper ballet is the point of departure for McIntyre's emotionally charged dances, which seem to defy categorization.

Larry Murray writing in Berkshire on Stage last August said, "(McIntyre's) dance is designed for the new generation coming up, with the frenetic pace of his work echoing the multi-level intensity of a video game like Mortal Combat."

The difference, Anderson explains, is that you can't learn the steps as you would in classical ballet, but you must go beyond the steps. You must believe in the movement.

"It is such a mix of emotions and technique," the dancer continues. "And the music is different, too."

While McIntyre has choreographed more than 80 ballets, drawing on composers ranging from Bach and Beethoven to the Beatles, it is the unusual-for-ballet music that people remember.

For the Tucson performance, recordings of New Orleans and traditional jazz played by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be used in two of the three feature-length dances. The third, titled "In Dreams," will be set to a medley of favorites sung by Roy Orbison.

Think of the concert as two dinner courses of full-flavored New Orleans dishes - with a side of Roy.

"As an outsider, it struck me that New Orleanians understand the need for pleasure in ways that are fundamentally different than the rest of the country," McIntyre told the Times-Picayune newspaper. "They don't view pleasure as some narcissistic indulgence. For them, it's more like a spiritual release. And it's bound up with a sense of mortality."


Trey McIntyre Project in concert

• Presented by: UApresents.

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the UA campus.

• Cost: $15-$38.

• Reservations/information: or 621-3341..

• Program:

"Ma Maison," premiered Nov. 21, 2008, in New Orleans. The music selections include "God's Word Will Never Pass Away," "He Wrote the Revelation" and "Power" written by Sister Gertrude Morgan; "Heebie Jeebies," "Complicated Life," "I Don't Want to be Buried In the Storm " and "That's a Plenty" are credited to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

"The Sweeter End," is a shorter piece which premiered Feb. 4, also in New Orleans. All the music is performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Song titles include "St. James Infirmary," "Trouble In Mind," Yellow Moon" and "Old Man Mos."

"In Dreams," choreographed by McIntyre was originally premiered by Ballet Memphis on July 28, 2007. The songs selected from Roy Orbison's discography include "Dream Baby," "You Tell Me," "I Never Knew," "Crowd," "Crying" and "In Dreams."

Chuck Graham has written about the Tucson arts scene for more than 35 years. Read more of his arts coverage at "Let the Show Begin,"