In The Studio: Company XIV Isn't Your Typical Burlesque Troupe
Unbeknownst to pedestrians on the street, inside a warehouse at 383 Troutman is one of the most eccentric dance companies in Brooklyn. Company XIV is known for their ostentatious costumes, raunchy choreography and taboo twists on old classics like Snow White and The Nutcracker. From former Limon dancers on trapeze swings to opera-singing pole dancers, this company has talents that, woven together through a familiar storyline, make for an exciting show.
Between rehearsing for the company's upcoming holiday season run of Nutcracker Rouge in their newly-renovated theater and his choreography work for the Metropolitan Opera, we caught up with artistic director Austin McCormick for our latest rendition of In The Studio.
Photo by Mark Shelby Perry
In the past, your company has performed in rented theaters. How does it feel to be performing for the first time in your own space?
It definitely feels more at home for us. When we started renovating this warehouse space I wanted to make sure we kept the aesthetic of the theater very similar to what we've done in the past. So we obviously have a designated stage and performance space, but the dressing room is still exposed so when patrons come in there's a fringed off space where they can peek in and see the dancers doing makeup and getting ready.
This seems like a particularly athletic cast. Was that intentional in casting this show?
This is for sure the most athletic group of dancers we've had. I'm casting a little bit differently now because we're having shows six days a week with double shows, so I'm more aware of the fact that dancers have to really be up to the challenge. And I'm also casting dancers who can do more specialty performance, like aerialists for example, so I think that plays into the dancers' physical ability.
Photo by Mark Shelby Perry
Speaking of the dancers' physical ability, is there anything the twins [Ross and Nick Katen] can't do? In the show we see them doing extremely intricate tap, high performance contemporary dancing and aerial partner work on a trapeze.
I don't think so. I'm trying to figure it out. Maybe sing?
Most of the songs in the show are sung live by the performers and I have to admit, it's hard to listen to the original version of a song after hearing it during one of your shows. They are changed in such unique ways. Is that something you collaborate on with the performers?
I tend to pick most of the music but I think now that I have a relationship with a lot of the singers in the company we start to brainstorm together. I'm really interested in their creative take on the cover. Like Marci, for example, will flip languages and sing the song in an operatic way. (Not to mention she's usually upside down and hanging from a hoop while doing it.)
Photo by Mark Shelby Perry
You incorporate a lot of gender-bending within the costumes and the relationships between characters on stage. Is that something you think the dance world needs more of?
Certainly costume-wise it's very exciting to me to see different genders in different silhouettes, but I think it's not as calculated as making a giant statement. It's more just how I see the world or maybe want to see the world. I feel like so much of the shows are in this dream-like environment. So I don't think that much about gender in terms of making a bold and clear statement, but for me things are more fluid artistically.
Company XIV's 2017 season opens November 9th with their holiday hit Nutcracker Rouge at Theatre XIV.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
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