Austin McCormick wants Brooklyn to get naughty. Since 2006, the Juilliard dance graduate has been titillating audiences with his dance troupe Company XIV. Employing a variety of musical and dance styles, his team sets out to turn classic stories upside down. His projects have attracted the attention and earned him awards from both dance and theater circles.
After years of constantly searching for available performance space (they primarily performed at the Minetta Lane Theater), Company XIV is excited to land a permanent home in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Manhattan Digest recently talked with McCormick over the phone about their current production of Cinderella, the inclusive nature that he adopts for both his company and audiences and a possible (but highly doubtful) platform for Burlesque polka and pasties.
MD: Talk about the differences from having a transient space to your new home in Bushwick.
AM: At Minetta lane, we had to transform the space as much as we could to have that late night nightlife meets theater meets baroque and cabaret vibe. Having our own home gives us the chance to further cultivate the experience that we’ve been after all these years. We’re able to do our own thing. The building was formerly an immersive theater space. It’s a 5,000 square foot space and seats about 200. We have 2 bar areas where we make cocktails that are in line with the show.
MD: How much liberty does Company XIV’s Cinderella take from the traditional story?
AM: It is inspired by the Charles Perrault story(also the premise for the Disney version). We are fairly traditional in the 1st and 2nd acts but veer off a little in the 3rd. I won’t give too much away, though.
MD: Despite the disclaimers of being an adult oriented show, have you had naive people walk into this not knowing what it’s about and then freaking out by the content?
AM: Not at Cinderella, but we did have that for Nutcracker Rouge. People thought that they had bought tickets for the Lincoln Center version and were quite shocked by what they saw. But by now, people get it.
MD: (Laughs) Right. Because it is so easy to mistake the West Village with Lincoln Center!
AM: I guess so, I don’t know (laughs). But no one has brought the kids to Cinderella so far.
MD: You incorporate many elements from various dance styles. Does any of your work touch or reflect on any political themes or is it strictly fun and frolic?
AM: We had a bit of a political moment in the last show where we had something to say about the current President, but I generally try to stay away from that. I want XIV to be a place where people can kind of escape…like a dreamscape. I don’t overtly tackle politics, but sometimes it works its way in. I’m most proud of the fact that it’s an inclusive environment regarding the audience, age demographic, ethnicity, and sexuality.
MD: Do you have a core group of dancers or are you constantly searching for new talent?
AM: I do have a core company for every show, but then I add guest artists to the cast.
MD: Given the fact that the styles are so different, what do you expect of your dancers from a typical audition?
AM: Everybody I hire is usually classically trained in ballet. For other styles, I’m really curious to see what the artists can bring to the table. Right now, the dancers playing the stepsisters in Cinderella are circus artists and tap dancers. I just hired a classically trained dancer who is also fantastic at hip-hop. I’m at a point where I’m able to embrace everybody’s hidden talent.
MD: So do you expect to be incorporating hip-hop into your future shows?
AM: Maybe. If it helps to tell the story and seems right, totally. I don’t think that I’d do an entire hip-hop show because it’s not really my background, but I’m open to incorporating just about anything.
MD: How about Polka? (Laughs)
AM: Polka? Totally. I’m into it. Square dancing…everything. (laughs) It could be a whole other audience that we cultivate. That’s not a bad idea…Burlesque Polka and pasties. I love it!
MD: Well…uh…that would be something.
AM: I’ll make sure you’re invited to that one. You’re getting a program note.
MD: Thanks. I think my calendar is booked for….whenever that is. (laughs). In all seriousness, what do you see coming down the road for Company XIV?
AM: The most exciting thing is that we are able to plan two years ahead. We were limited when we didn’t have a permanent location. Now that we have a home, we can look at past shows and reimagine them and also look at new work. My goal is to bring back all the favorites, but make one new production a year. Artistically, we sit at this cool intersection between theater and nightlife and we’re honoring the best of both worlds.
MD: I feel like this is something that would have been something more prominent in the East Village in 80s New York.
AM: I’ve heard that over and over again and that’s what we’re going for so apparently, it’s working!
Company XIV’s Cinderella. Now through Sunday, June 3rd. 383 Troutman Street Brooklyn, NY 11237. For tickets and information, visit their official website.