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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Trey McIntyre Project at Rialto Center for the Arts

Dance preview
Trey McIntyre Project.
8 p.m. Saturday, $32-$56, Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. N.W., 404-413-9849, www.rialtocenter.org

By Pierre Ruhe

He was already hooked at age 5, playing a pint-sized party guest in a local production of “The Nutcracker.” But growing up a male ballet dancer in Valdosta, John Michael Schert soon faced more than his share of jokes and hazing.

That is, until he enrolled in a summer ballet camp at 12 and left home at 14 for the North Carolina School for the Arts, a college in Winston-Salem with a boarding school component.

“When I came home, I noticed the shift. After I moved, they saw how hard I worked, how I was traveling around the country, how I was dancing already at a pretty high level. My older brothers, the community, they respected that kind of dedication and hard work.”

Schert, now 28, has added another career element earning him respect at a national level: he’s a top dancer and also the founding executive director of Trey McIntyre Project, a nine-member dance troupe that’s devoted to McIntyre’s choreography and receiving rave reviews from all quarters. The group will perform three McIntyre abstract ballets Saturday at the Rialto Center for the Arts.

“Wild Sweet Love” is set to a range of music, from the romantic classics to classic rock and depicts a sort of wedding and multiple meanings of love. For this work, more than a dozen young dancers from Atlanta’s Dance 101 studio will join the professionals on stage.

“Shape” is the piece with a trio of dancers who negotiated with red balloons that are freighted heavy with symbolism. Piano music by Chopin informs “Ten Pin Episodes,” a piece linking humans and bowling pins — both curvy in shape, precariously balanced and resilient when struck a violent blow.

In 2000, Schert landed a position with American Ballet Theatre in New York, a huge company with some 80 dancers and a global reputation. He met McIntyre, and together with another dancer they formed a summer touring ensemble to present McIntyre’s choreography, on a budget of $150,000. Eventually they  began performing year-round and built their budget to $1.5 million.

“When I return home to Valdosta,” he says, “my accent comes back pretty thick, and every day I’m back asking myself, Why are we doing this? Why does all this matter? I’m reminded that I’m still a Southerner, and it expands my point of view.”

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