Talking Company XIV with Founder and Choreographer Austin McCormick
Last month I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Company XIV's annual "Nutcracker Rouge", a decidedly NSFW take on Tchaikovsky's famous holiday ballet. All of us in the audience were treated to stunning costumes, beautiful choreography, and many cheeky twists (plus A LOT of champagne).
I came away feeling both festive, and nostalgic for my college burlesque days. Recently I caught up with the company's founder and choreographer Austin McCormick to talk about his creative process, his inspiration for the show, and what the crew has coming down the line. Nutcracker Rouge runs now through January 14th at their new dedicated theatre in Bushwick.
NSFW: When did you first become involved with dance?
I started doing ballet when I was 5 and Baroque dance when I was 8. I continued classical training until I attended Juilliard for college.
NSFW: What prompted you to form Company XIV? What were your goals for the Company?
I always felt I wanted to create an environment that utilized classically trained performers in a sensual and beautiful atmosphere. Company XIV was born out of the desire to fuse everything I love under one roof- extravagant costume design, classical dance, circus, burlesque and opera!
NSFW: Where do you find inspiration for your shows and choreography?
I'm very inspired by fashion, drag and all elements of design. The multi faceted performers I hire also really inspire the work and take it into new and exciting directions.
NSFW: To what do you attribute your unique aesthetic?
My aesthetic is really a mashup of my experiences and fantasies. I love fusing the ornate Baroque period with gritty cabaret and high fashion inspirations.
NSFW: What about The Nutcracker inspired you to create "Nutcracker Rouge"?
I grew up dancing NUTCRACKER every year and had always wanted to create a sensual alternative to the classical ballet. I conceived the Kingdom of the Sweets as a variety show referencing all sorts of candy. I made the first version several years ago and have continued to adapt the show every year with new specialty artists. There truly is something for everyone in the production.
NSFW: How much of the original source material did you use to create the show?
I use a lot of Tchaikovsky music but incorporate a varied mixture of pop favorites and operatic covers.
NSFW: Does the theme of reworking and injecting sexual themes into familiar stories come up in your work a lot?
Oh yes! Everything I do is a sexy "Baroque Burlesque" take on classic stories, fairy tales or ballets.
NSFW: How does the show change year to year?
I evolve the show to incorporate different guest artists each year tailoring the piece to their unique gifts.
NSFW: What is the casting process like?
I scout all over town for emerging talent and specialty artists. We hold annual open dance calls and look for artists who can adapt to different styles.
NSFW: What's coming up for the company in the new year?
In the past ten years we’ve performed in every type of venue from the Metropolitan Opera to tiny Burlesque clubs. This experience was invaluable in conceptualizing our own space which truly merges the worlds of theater and nightlife. Guests lounge on sexy Baroque furniture while taking in the show.
Our goal is to create a generous, sensual and friendly dream world where we can enchant and delight. I’d encourage new audience members to sit back relax and let us take you through a magical journey. It’s best not to reveal too much about the show- surprises are the most exciting part! We are over the moon to have a permanent home for XIV. It means that we can focus on what we do best- creating fabulous Baroque Burlesque productions in an immersive and sexy environment.
Our new theater has two fabulous bars where we create cocktails and bites inspired by the performances. Having a home theater means more opportunity to be creative and risky, more sexy parties and lavish spectacles and a whole lot of Champagne.