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New York Cool - Interview

William S. Gooch Talks to
Austin McCormick:
A Man for All Seasons



When I first interviewed Austin McCormick a year ago I was impressed with his passion, determination and most of all with his ability to create choreography that blends disparate dance styles into a distinctive, contemporary movement expression. His dance company, Company XIV is the perfect collaborative vehicle to interpret McCormick’s solid background in Baroque dance, classical ballet, and modern movement styles.

Recently, I spent more time with Austin McCormick and Company XIV and realized that Austin is much more than a talented, young choreographer with a unique approach to movement. He is an innovative thinker who is challenging the way we think about theater, dance, and performance art. At only 25 years of age, Austin is pushing the axiomatic envelope of risk taking that more established choreographers are reluctant to advance.

Most young dance makers spend quality years performing the dance works of master choreographers in elite dance companies prior to forming their own companies. Cases in point, Christopher Wheeldon performed with the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet before forming Morphoses Dance Company; Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Frankfurt Ballet prior to forming Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and David Parsons created his company after performing ten years with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. This was not the case for Austin McCormick. Fresh out Julliard, Austin created Company XIV as a vehicle that expresses his ideology of what dance and performance art should be. “In my senior year at Julliard I realized that I could dance with a major company here or abroad, but I really wanted to embrace my passion for creating work. My dance professors at Julliard actually recommended I go the traditional route of dancing with a major company first, but I believed I had the momentum to create my own company … my goal was not to establish a traditional repertoire company that would take over the New York dance scene, but to create a place where I could make important work … I knew I had so much more to offer than abstract ballets. I wanted to produce dance pieces with more acting and characters.”


The Judgment of Paris

Over a cup of hot chocolate on a wet, cold wintry evening Austin and I talked about our experiences in the dance world. I quickly discover that although Austin has a clear vision for himself and where he wants his company to go, he is open to change and new ideas. When I first saw his performance piece The Judgment of Paris last May at his performance space in Brooklyn, I was mesmerized by all the cohesive elements in the production. The monologues flowed seamlessly into dance sequences giving urgency to the action on stage. The recent incarnation of The Judgment of Paris has evolved into a tighter work, newly incorporating pointe work and very speedy petite allegro, as well as Baroque dance, Can Can, and Busby Berkeley–like choreography from the previous version. “Most of the dancers in my company I knew from my years at Julliard,” details Austin. “Laura Careless trained at the Royal Ballet School and we discussed putting some pointe work and partnering into this newest version to show off her exquisite training.” The collaboration between artistic director and artists is evident at rehearsals where the artists interject their opinions on how to tighten the production and better realize the vision of the work. “ The dancers in my company are so much more than dancers, they are collaborative artists who bring their life experiences to the work.”

When choosing dancers for his company, Austin is attracted to dancers who have something to express beyond technical prowess. Instructors from the Yale School of Drama work regularly with the company and the dancers are encouraged to study acting and improvisational techniques on their own. This confluence of dance and theatre is not new to the dance world—Anthony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, and Eugene Loring expressed this aesthetic in some of their earlier work for American Ballet Theatre.

Never one to rest on the success of a current work, Austin McCormick is always looking for new challenges and theatrical expressions of the human condition. His dance film Folies d'Espagne premiered at the Walter Reade Cinema in Lincoln Center in January 2008 and has been selected/screened at Galerie Michel Journiac in Paris/France, the Wisconsin Film Festival, Circle Cinema Oklahoma, Film Fest Reload (Staten Island), and CineDans International Film Festival in Amsterdam. He is also currently working on a satirical enactment of the Fall of Man and Adam and Eve legend entitled Le Serpent Rouge. This new performance piece draws inspiration from Jean Cocteau’s Le Bel Indifferent and the songs of Edith Piaf, Eartha Kitt, and Georges Bizet.

Like Ballets Russes impresario and founder, Serge Diaghilev, Austin McCormick draws inspiration from literature, art, fashion, and music. With his uncanny ability to interweave plot, character and dialogue into classical and contemporary dance forms, this Renaissance man for all seasons is destined to make his mark not only in the world of dance but as an important cultural innovator of his generation. Vive L’ Innovation!!

The Judgment of Paris will run January 8 to January 31, 2009 at the Duo Theater. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. The Duo Theater is located at 62 East 4th Street. For more information about Company XIV, go to www. CompanyXIV.com.

 

 



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