The Sounds That Made Her Move: ‘Music Fed My Life Force’

It was the 1970s, and Dianne McIntyre was a dancer on a mission: to soak up live music, specifically, she said, “so-called avant-garde jazz,” free jazz or, when labels really start to irritate her, just “whatever.” Shows would end late, making this obsession a sunrise pursuit. “We’d leave at 2 a.m., get on the subway from Brooklyn or down in the Village,” she said in a video interview. “At 2 a.m., the subways came by very seldom, so we’d get home at 4 a.m., something like that. But we didn’t care. We had to go. We had to go hear the music.”

To McIntyre, now 77, dance and music are one entity, an artistic union that she celebrated with Sounds in Motion, the company she formed in 1972. Starting Friday, that vision will be on display in her new work, “In the Same Tongue,” the inaugural dance performance to grace the new Apollo Stages at the Victoria Theater.

Filtered through the lens of Black culture, “In the Same Tongue” is a personal work, years in the making. McIntyre, a veteran choreographer, is fueled by questions: How do dance and music speak to one another? Are they — and are people — speaking in the same key? As she said, “It’s dance-music communication and human communication.”

McIntyre moved to New York from Cleveland in 1970 and studied with Viola Farber and Gus Solomons Jr., both influential dancers from the Merce Cunningham company. McIntyre’s deep connection to dance and music led her to form Sounds in Motion, a company — and studio — in Harlem dedicated to dance, of course, but also ideas about Black expression. It was a rich melding of the arts; the poet Ntozake Shange danced in her company and was part of her circle.

“In the Same Tongue” — a nuanced weaving together of motion and sound, both improvised and set — features musicians, dancers, poetry by Shange and text by McIntyre. When she first started working on the dance, years ago, she got stuck. A former dancer gave her valuable advice: to write about her associations with music. “I didn’t write so much about the individuals I worked with,” she said, “but how it was my intention for people to see the music in the dance.”

McIntyre brought on Diedre Murray as composer. Murray started out as a cellist. “She was one of the pioneers bringing a string instrument into the jazz world,” McIntyre said.

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