A Kilopus is an Octopus with a Thousand Tentacles

After Trey McIntyre Project had its final show at Jacob’s Pillow, the first step in the next two years of dismantling the kilopus, was a Penske van. We had rented one in Miami during the course of the tour and it absolutely had to be returned to that same location in Miami or else I would have to buy the cockroach infested, windowless vehicle. After June 30, there were no more employees, so the keys to that truck were left in my hand. My man Bryce and I took a road trip from Massachusetts to Florida and as someone who would absolutely have set right to the next very task on the list of dismantling the kilopus, the cosmic joke of having to take the rental down the eastern coast was an intervention from God. The final 6 or so months of the company was the most difficult trial of my adult life and my natural inability to stop and recover or breathe or celebrate might have killed me otherwise.

There is something intensely American about the feeling of freedom that comes from driving down the highway with the windows open toward a place that you have never been before. The summer was beautiful and the sun and blue sky made me feel naked. My board member Ginny Friend gifted us all of our hotels along the way, with an extended stay in the Florida Keys as the prize at the end, so we felt taken care of. One of the first stops though, was in North Carolina at the beach home of board member Blair Kutrow. I love the ocean so much but all of its properties were on this day distilled and amplified so as to only exist in its deepest meanings. Getting in the water, I was a child. I was not just re-emerging as a new person, I was returning to vital parts of myself that had been forced into the dark. There was complete clarity of purpose and that the pain of my hard work was for very good reason. I looked out on the horizon and saw a pod of dolphins beaching the water, then I looked down and saw a Manta Ray brush past my feet, then looked to the side and a Stingray swam by. Even the animals knew something was being born.

When we reached Miami, we traded the roach van for a rental car and made our way down the Keys. As we drove away, I randomly received a direct message on Instagram. It was from a photographer, who’s work I had been following and admiring for some time, named Scott Teitler. I find his work transporting. The beautiful people in his photos are at their most kindly, open selves. They are unencumbered and have a purity of presence that can only come from being shot by a photographer who allows and facilitates them to be that. In a moment of popping through the movie screen, this photographer, who was only a theory to me, was reaching out. He had seen on my Instagram that I was in Miami and was asking me if I wanted to shoot with him. This was perhaps the greatest miracle to me in any of this. One of the parts of me that was dying in the process of making a dance company was the performer part of myself. I rapidly retreated from the front of the room and put myself in the position of helping other people be their best selves. Getting to do that was an honor for me, but it was at great sacrifice.  

I have a confession to make.

I love making art. It keeps me up at night; it expands my experience as human; it makes me smarter; it makes me more compassionate. I could not have the life that looks anything like the one I live now without the trial and experience of doing this. And if this was all that I knew of life, I would die a happy man, having slain dragons and felt the depths of passion. But you see, it’s an elaborate distraction.

If you had asked me at any single point during my childhood what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you without a doubt, an actor. I, at my most core self, find solace within the action of exploring the complexity of human experience, using my own body and my own voice. I veered drastically off of this path for a myriad of reasons that perhaps I’ll get into in another post. I have committed myself with utter commitment and devotion and integrity to everything I have endeavored to do, but in many ways the intensity of that devotion is a sign of the the intensity of the ocean that is the thing that truly drives me.

So here was this artist whom I respect, whom I have never met, reaching out to me and calling me to get out of the background and be seen. At this point, it was too late to be photographed. We were already ½ way to Key West and I had already had my head shaved by a Vietnam vet with a Flowbee and I now looked like a maniac, but it didn’t matter. The contact itself was like the world calling out to me to experience life. After making this gigantic decision to change everything, I knew that it was all going to be ok.

Peeling away the layers of making a certain kind of life is not as simple as one big moment. In the years that followed, I did not have a perfect understanding of what my new life should look like. I was also a child in terms of knowing how to take a step. It was a series of trials and retreats and trying again. Old modes of being had their hooks in and held on for dear life, but I have had a devotion to staying on the path and trying.

When I headed to Miami in December to focus and prepare for an intense string of commissions in 2017, I decided to reach out to Scott and connect and when we did, he offered again to photograph me. It definitely stirred up feelings of fear and wanting to hide, but they were completely overshadowed by both the desire to work with and learn from this amazing artist and to dive into the darkness and see where I would land.

We met at a converted beach hotel in Hollywood and sat and shot the shit. Scott’s tremendous experience and perspective from a life in photography was invaluable to me. He’s truly someone that I look up to as an artist and I felt really lucky to have this level of intimacy. And then we started preparing to shoot. When he started applying powder to my face, I started feeling the desire to shrink. I just stayed with it. I let the feeling be, but I didn’t shrink. Doing press photoshoots and videos was a frequent part of TMP, but this was different. This was a focus on me separately from my identity as the company. I was starting to feel exposed as this complete infant and did not have experience or technique to fall back on.

The shoot was amazing and it was difficult. There were times where I felt awesome and there were times that the best parts of myself would not come. Scott even got visibly frustrated with me a few times and I really appreciated it. He was direct about it and didn’t lie to me by holding back. I’m frustrated with those parts of myself too. It’s a reasonable reaction. Somehow that helped me. I came away with the feeling that I had accomplished something difficult and that maybe I hadn’t nailed it with ease, but I showed up and got something out of it.

And I love the photos because I recognize myself in them. They capture my intensity and they capture my joy. And when I look at them I see the world that Scott creates and enables and feel intensely blessed to be a part of that and to have a wonderful record of that point in my life.