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BY TRAV S.D. | The reader may take it as a sign of Company XIV’s nonstop vibrancy that, after eight years of writing about them in 10 separate articles and reviews, your correspondent still finds new and interesting hooks to latch on to. Austin McCormick’s neo-baroque dance company has gone through many moves and changes during that time — from the banks of the Gowanus Canal, to Greenwich Village’s Minetta Lane Theatre, to the company’s own short-lived cabaret space on Lafayette St., to Brooklyn’s Irondale Center for Theater, Education and Outreach. They’ve left a trail of feathers, glitter, and sequins in their wake, as their semi-clad company has enthralled audiences with sexy adaptations of fairy tales and other works, mixing elements of ballet, burlesque, circus, opera, puppetry, and more. Now, Company XIV is about to launch their fall season at their new home in Bushwick, and thereby hangs a tale.
“We moved to Bushwick last November,” said McCormick, “The challenge with choosing a new permanent home is finding a neighborhood that has the right vibe and energy. The risk is, that if you’re not in Manhattan, the fan base won’t come out anymore. Luckily this part of Bushwick is full of bars and entertainment venues. We’re near the House of Yes and Lot 45. It’s a good fit for the kind of immersive theatre we do. Since we moved, I’ve seen lots of familiar faces, as well as lots of new people. We just signed a long-term lease. We hope to be there for a long time to come.”
This is good news for fans of Company XIV, who have been forced to watch this superlative troupe ping pong from pillar to post for years due to setbacks like Hurricane Sandy and trouble with landlords. With the heavy emphasis on design McCormick exerts on his productions, space and stability are at a premium for maxim aesthetic impact. The new space, like their one on Lafayette St., also has its own bar, with a variety of signature cocktails (some of them McCormick’s original recipes).
The current season promises to uphold the company’s own high standards. Just opened is a revival of last season’s “Ferdinand: Boylesque Bullfight,” McCormick’s adaptation of Munro Leaf’s 1936 children’s book, “The Story of Ferdinand.” This version reimagines the classic story about the lazy, nap-loving bovine as an “erotic mostly all-male baroque-burlesque spectacle” in which the spectators are encouraged to “… roll around the Spanish hillside, then enjoy a bullfight in the XIV ring where our ferocious, fertile matador challenges dear Ferdinand to a duel.” Audiences responded well to the show in the recent production, according to McCormick. “The revival is our chance to refine it and perfect it.”
“Ferdinand: Boylesque Bullfight” runs through Oct. 28.
Next up is a perennial Company XIV favorite: “Nutcracker Rouge” — their annual holiday production, in which McCormick soups up the framework of the popular ballet and “trims the tree” with eclectic musical styles and enough sensuality for 1,000 sprigs of mistletoe. In addition to dance, the production contains circus elements and a changing roster of guest artists. Previews for “Nutcracker Rouge” start Nov. 9, with an opening Nov. 15.
The show runs through the entire holiday season and out the other side, closing on Jan. 13.
Finally, McCormick may be saving the best for last with the March 29 world-premiere of “Queen of Hearts,” his adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Given the hallucinatory nature of many of the choreographer’s previous visions, this one would appear to be a match made in a very surreal heaven.
“I’m excited to be starting an all-new show,” he said. “I more often go back and rework older stuff. It’s not often I get to start from scratch. There’s a lot you can do with a well-known tale like this. It’s familiar, but the specifics are open to a lot of creative interpretations. It suits the immersive nature of our work well. I’m already working on a new ‘Drink Me’ cocktail tie-in.”
“Queen of Hearts” will be on the boards through May 5.
As if this all weren’t enough, McCormick is also choreographing the Metropolitan Opera production of Camille Saint-Saenes’ “Samson et Dalila,” directed by Darko Tresnjek, which begins performances on Sept. 24. That, of course, will be work on a scale he’d never be able to fit into any indie theatre venue, and at a location that is good deal more posh. But if you think that relieves you of the need to see McCormick’s unfettered, unfiltered visions at his own joint, you’ve got another thing coming. There is no substitute for the aesthetic purity of a Company XIV production.
Their new home is at 383 Troutman St. (at Wyckoff Ave.), in Brooklyn. Take the L Train to the Jefferson St. stop. Tickets for “Ferdinand: Boylesque Bullfight” are $55 to $79; VIP couch for two is $260. To purchase tickets for individual productions or the season, visit companyxiv.com or call 866-811-4111.