Theatrical Libertine: An Interview with Austin McCormick

12/17/2014 1:22 PM |

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Choreographer Austin McCormick founded his theater troupe, Company XIV, in 2006, gathering together dancers, singers, musicians, and stylists to create inviting and enveloping erotic worlds on stage. The troupe’s Nutcracker Rouge, a neo-burlesque and very adult take on the traditional Tchaikovsky ballet, was a memorably sexy success last year when it played at the Minetta Lane Theatre, and now it is returning in a new version just in time for Christmas and New Years.

“Our new home is called XIV and is located right across from the Public Theater,” says McCormick. “It’s a theater-lounge hybrid featuring specialty cocktails and nightly performances by Company XIV.” While the Minetta Lane was spacious and more formal, this new space brings you closer to the performers. “Due to the intimate size of the venue, this version of Nutcracker Rouge is much more cozy and immersive,” he says. Various dancers play “sweets” in the show, and McCormick has come up with some fresh ideas for them. “I have re-imagined several of the sweets, including an amazing pole duo and a new take on Spanish chocolate,” he says.

“Most dancers perform The Nutcracker hundreds of times—I danced in The Nutcracker from the age of 5 to 18,” says McCormick. “I think the element that makes that kind of repetition possible is Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music. It literally calls you to dance to it. The structure of the entire second act of the traditional Nutcracker is essentially a variety show, meaning that several divertissements from ‘exotic’ lands perform. It seemed to be an easy leap to take the child-friendly ballet and sex it up. I have always felt that Tchaikovsky’s music had such elegant eroticism and begged for lush, sensual choreography sans pointe shoes.”

McCormick has a specific vision, and he has given much time and thought to it. “I have been developing a style I call ‘Baroque-Burlesque,’ which is a fusion of high art and entertainment,” he says. “The fact that so many people are familiar with the classic Nutcracker allows us to take the show in unusual and exciting directions.” When asked if anything has ever been too sexy to put in the show, McCormick says, “I try to push myself artistically in every show we create—so far nothing has seemed too risqué or sexy to me… but I’m obviously not the most objective person about this subject.”

The name of the troupe was inspired by the decadent entertainment put on for the court of French monarch king Louis XIV, but McCormick is devoted to mixing and matching styles. “Everyone involved in Company XIV productions are classically trained and interested in taking our talents to new levels by fusing them with other mediums,” says McCormick. “We employ every kind of theatrical device to enchant our audiences and enrich our productions. Our company motto is to connect to our pleasure and share our experience onstage. And we are thrilled to be planning a yearlong season at our home theater XIV.”