“Sharing the message of equality is one of the most important things all of us can do.”
That’s Brett Perry, a dancer with the internationally-acclaimed Trey McIntyre Project (TMP), a Boise-based professional dance company he’s called his creative home for the last five years.
Brett, an openly gay man, and TMP have teamed up with Pride Foundation for a new partnership where Brett will act as a Pride Foundation Ambassador over the next several months during TMP’s tours through the Northwest. In this role, Brett will talk to audience members and patrons about Pride Foundation’s work supporting and creating LGBTQ equality. A handful of dedicated Pride Foundation donors helped fund Brett’s sponsorship.
“History has shown us here at Pride Foundation that art, from photography to theater to dance, has the ability to move hearts and educate minds in a way that simply could not come in any other form,” said Pride Foundation Executive Director Kris Hermanns. “Directly exploring diversity and the stories of LGBTQ people transforms audiences and leaves a lasting impact as people move back to their own lives and start conversations about what they saw, heard, or observed. That is why we were particularly excited to have a group of donors who wanted to partner with us to support TMP and Brett Perry.”
Brett’s Ambassador role started in February, when Trey McIntyre announced the partnership during a pre-show video about the company during two performances in Boise before packed houses of 2,700. Brett plans to talk to audiences about Pride Foundation’s work at upcoming TMP Washington performances in Olympia on April 9 and in Seattle April 11-13. Additional engagements are planned for fall 2013.
The idea stemmed from a joint Pride Foundation and TMP-hosted LGBTQ Youth Night last fall on National Coming Out Day. Boise-area high school students attended a behind-the-scenes dance rehearsal, followed by four gay male dancers—including Brett—sitting down and sharing their coming out stories, inspiring several youth to do the same.
“It was a magical moment,” Brett said. “The courage it takes to share your story is huge, and I was so honored to listen. We each got to learn a little more about the other people in the room. We also were able to let our guests know that TMP is a safe place for everyone. I hope to do more of these types of events with the LGBTQ community.”
Brett grew up in Greenwood, Indiana, and started dancing when he was 4, something he often was teased about.
“It wasn’t always the easiest thing being a male dancer in the suburbs of Indianapolis,” he said. “I used to lie and tell people that I did karate. I was never physically bullied, but I was verbally bullied all through middle school and into my freshman year of high school. It wasn’t until people started realizing I was serious about dance and I was good at it that they quit bullying me. It wasn’t easy, but I am so happy I didn’t let those people steer me off my course.”
Brett later moved to New York City to study dance at the The Juilliard School. It was then, at 19, that he finally came out to his parents during Christmas break of his sophomore year.
“It was a scary moment,” he said. “I knew they would be incredibly supportive, but I was still nervous. It took a lot of guts to sit down and say ‘I’m gay’ for the first time to my parents. There were some tears and questions but, of course, a huge hug and their support in the end.”
His journey to TMP started at Juilliard in his senior year, where he attended a master class with Trey McIntyre and felt an immediate connection.
“His movement was beautiful and it felt organic and right for my body. Trey talked about starting his company in Boise, and I was totally into the vision he had for it,” he said. “Trey and I exchanged some emails, and he came back to Juilliard for a private audition with me. He offered me a contract, and in July 2008 I moved to Boise. It has been the wildest, most inspiring adventure to be with Trey and TMP. I have learned so much.”
That learning has included the value of engaging and being a part of the community, something TMP aspires to, Brett said, in all its work and extracurricular activities such as the company being the artists in residence at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise, and the LGBTQ Youth Coming Out Night.
“TMP’s co-founders, Trey and John Michael Schert, are gay men,” he said. “They have built a company around passion and support. They are great role models for the LGBTQ community. They are courageous leaders who want to connect with the community in unique ways and bring people together through art.”
The collaboration with Pride Foundation is the latest example of TMP’s community outreach, and something that Brett is particularly thrilled and proud to be a part of.
“I feel so strongly about being a Pride Foundation Ambassador because this is an opportunity to help make a difference through my art,” Brett said. “I have the opportunity to talk about what Pride Foundation has accomplished and will accomplish in the years to come. I get to speak to people who have passion and love for helping other people grow and succeed.”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.