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Austin McCormick – Dancing Through Life

by Karen Tortora-Lee on October 17, 2010

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Austin McCormick (photo by Cristina Ramirez)

I can count on one hand the men whose talent leave me dazzled – and while they all strike a chord for different reasons they all  have one thing in common: the ability to amaze me in a way that I’ve never experienced before.  Like the first time I heard a Sondheim phrase and had to stand still, or the first time I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman perform live (in True West) and couldn’t remember to breath – that’s how I felt when I saw choreographer Austin McCormick’s Company XIV performing Le Cirque Feerique.  So dazzled was I that I went twice – and am thrilled that – just in time for Halloween – Austin will be bringing another new, dazzling  show that audiences can experience: Dénouement—A Murderous Masquerade.  I had a chance to talk with Austin McCormick about how he swirls magic together time and time again to create pure beauty.

Austin, you’re like no other choreographer I’ve ever seen. You’re the most exciting new talent I’ve had the opportunity to experience! It’s an honor to be able to interview you.  I’ve only seen one of your shows so far, Le Cirque Feerique, but my fellow THM reviewer, Dianna Martin saw Le Serpent Rouge and she was equally dazzled by your choreography, and the entire Company XIV.

At the end of the day, what compels you? What inspires you? What sparks your creativity?


Austin McCormick (photo by Cristina Ramirez)

A.M.: I am ultimately drawn to reimagining classical stories and twisting and contorting them to embody all the things I am interested in. My artistic mission is to unite music, dance, acting, and design to give audiences an incredible and involved theatrical experience. I like blurring genres, mixing and matching, it feels like our world- eclectic and messy. Art has the power to transport us to another time and place while at the same time making old stories brand new and relevant for a new generation of theatre patrons.

How do you go about bringing one of your lavish productions to life? What’s the first step that gets the production rolling?

I spend a lot of time researching for a production…. I like to come into rehearsal with a lot of ideas and jumping off points. I am always astounded at how many ideas it takes to make a compelling show. I have a fabulous design team – Zane Pihlstrom (scenery, costumes) and Gina Scherr (lighting) are great collaborators. There is a lot of coffee in planning the shows. There is also something that happens when you get the cast together in the space that is really exciting. No matter how much you conceptualize a show, it inevitably changes. It is a living, breathing thing that evolves into something that is hopefully larger and more amazing than you could have planned.

Besides amazing talent, all your dancers have a sparkling quality, a sense of mischief combined with a sense of elegance. They are all astonishing. How do you pick your dancers? What is that one quality you look for?

When I audition performers, I look for watch-ability…something that draws me to them. I don’t care about perfect technique or classical lines. I am interested in who they are and what they bring to the table. I am very interested in incorporating their strengths as performers into the productions while also pushing them in exciting new directions. I also like variety in body type…I am not necessarily interested in performers who look like traditional “dancers.”

Do you have a signature move that’s become the hallmark of every production?

I would say my signature is combining a Baroque aesthetic with contemporary movements…and let’s not forget heels and corsets, they are in most of my shows.

Being a Brooklyn gal myself – born and raised – I love that your company is based in Brooklyn. Why did you choose the location on Bond Street?

When I was still a student at Juilliard I looked around New York for the perfect headquarters to hatch this crazy company. The space in Brooklyn allows me flexibility in terms of rehearsal and performance configurations. It was really important to me that Company XIV have a consistent home in which to collaborate and create. The local community in Carroll Gardens has been extremely supportive of Company XIV especially our family friendly works. It is a wonderful place to come to work everyday. We have recently expanded and now have a costume and scenery shop down the street so, Bond Street is bustling with preparations for our upcoming productions.

When you were younger and dreamed of your future, was this how it looked to you?

I always knew that I wanted to choreograph and direct, even as I trained in classical ballet and baroque dance, I knew that I wanted to be on the other side of the spotlight. I have been extremely lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love. It’s a difficult profession and can be quite grueling. Self-producing is not the most glamorous or financially rewarding endeavor in the world but making theatre, opera, dance is what I love to do. My parents are to blame for all of this, they provided the costume box filled with capes, feather boas, and accessories that I used to make shows as a child…Company XIV is what happens when you let a kid run wild with his imagination…Thank you mom and dad.

What is the one story you’re hoping to tell that’s never been told through dance before?

This is the hardest question ever!!!!! I have a million answers…I have been working on an imagined portrait of A Day in the Life of Louis XIV…It is going to be an extravaganza of Baroque dance, opera, theatre and so much more…I am currently making a show for the DUO theatre in Manhattan opening in December that is a Baroque-Burlesque mash-up of The Nutcracker and Little Red Riding Hood for ADULTS.

I just made a Baroque murder mystery masquerade that opens just in time for Halloween at Bond St. I am dying to do a piece inspired by Dangerous Liaisons told through movement. Also, I am developing a solo show for Laura Careless (Company XIV dancer/actress) based on the archetypes in Charles Bukowski’s poetry…I better get to work…


Don’t forget to catch The Halloween Plays, a co-production of Brave New World Repertory Theatre and Company XIV, which will feature Dénouement—A Murderous Masquerade, a Neo-Baroque murder mystery extravaganza that asks: Who will be the last character left alive?! Choreographed, conceived and directed by Austin McCormick, Company XIV founder.

Performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm.
Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at or by calling 917-285-8911.
Train access via the F or G to Carroll Street.
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