As Company XIV’s latest show comes to a close, we bid farewell to the avant-garde show of the season and fill the gap with a little inside look at the man behind the masquerade: founder and choreographer extraordinaire Austin McCormick.
LA: Tell us a bit about yourself.
AM: I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. I started dancing when I was 5 years old and fell in love with Baroque court dance and classical ballet. I started choreographing seriously while attending the Juilliard School for dance and decided that I wanted to start a company and dedicate myself to producing work in NYC.
LA: What was the defining moment in which you decided to go into the arts professionally?
AM: The big moment in my life occurred while I was in college and decided that I wanted to make work instead of joining a professional dance company.
LA: Describe your creative process in producing Company XIV’s productions.
AM: Well, it's a tough thing to recreate or describe.... but, everything stems from the experience that I want an audience to have. All the choreography, music, lighting, costumes, smell of the theatre and taste of the drinks leads to the complete experience. Unlike other productions, I want audience members to feel that they've entered another world.
LA: Did you ever consider another career outside of dance and choreography? If so, what was it?
AM: I have secret fantasies of becoming a pastry chef or a mixologist.
LA: What is your advice for aspiring choreographers and performers?
AM: My advice to choreographers is to make work in any scale and in any environment you can. Don't wait for the perfect situation or venue. Make make make. I've learned the most in my career by being open to performance in any kind of space -- from bars to opera houses. Also, ask yourself the hard question: why am I asking an audience to watch what I'm making? My favorite performers are the ones who in spite of difficult training have managed to develop and keep their senses of humor and individuality. In this day and age every performer should be developing special skills, the way that people (myself included) are casting these days -- you cannot simply dance.
LA: What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career?
AM: Probably being nominated for two Drama Desk Awards among only Broadway choreographers…that was shocking and very cool.
LA: Tell us about some of your goals and aspirations beyond the wonderful things you’ve already accomplished.
AM: My primary focus is on finding a permanent home for XIV in New York. I believe we have the possibility of artistically flourishing while developing a sustainable business in the city.
LA: As a performer-turned-choreographer, what advantage does that give you when choreographing a production?
AM: I have had the advantage of performing in my work for the first several years of the company. It’s allowed me to understand what it is that I am asking of performers having been both on the inside and outside. I have an elevated feeling of respect and admiration for what they do every night.
LA: What is the toughest part about your job?
AM: The hardest thing for me these days is working for other companies or venues after my experiences at XIV because we are able to do so many crazy and outlandish things...rules are not my thing.
LA: What do you look for in a performer?
AM: I am extremely artistically turned on by artists who are exceptional at what they do. I have a lot of respect for the time and dedication it takes to become a masterful dancer, opera singer, or circus artist. I look for people with extreme talent who also possess a willingness to explore their artistry and venture into uncomfortable or challenging territories. The best artistic relationship is when performer and director push each other to be greater than either imagined.
LA: Who inspires you, either personally or professionally (or both)?
AM: Well, my cast and designers are endlessly inspiring. It sounds cliché, but my mother is a huge source of inspiration both personally and professionally. She has done so many diverse things in her life and I hope I can have as many experiences as she has.
LA: How does Snow White differ from some of your previous productions?
AM: It reminds me of the kinds of shows we used to make at our warehouse space in Brooklyn....a bit darker than our normal fare.
LA: What were your goals for this season’s production?
AM: I really wanted to plan a season that would give our patrons a true feel for what XIV is all about. We have presented three back-to-back productions that share a thread but are extremely diverse. The cast leaves their hearts on the stage every night and it's been a thrill to work this consistently.
LA: What’s your process when masterminding music selections?
AM: I have very eclectic music taste so there are truly no rules when choosing music for the shows. Sometimes I'll utilize songs form a singer's repertoire but.... normally anything goes!
LA: What has been your greatest challenge to date in your career?
AM: Probably losing our space to superstorm Sandy. Our warehouse was destroyed during the storm and it meant canceling our season and getting mobile as a company. I see it now as a huge opportunity to have gotten my work into other venues and have since become leaner, lighter, and more capable as an artist.
LA: You’re stranded on a desert island and can bring only one book or manuscript. What do you choose and why?
AM: Dance of Court and Theater: The French Noble Style, 1690-1725 by Wendy Hilton....to brush up on my Baroque Dance notation. :)
LA: Tell us one fact that not many people know about you.
AM: I'm an Irish Citizen!
LA: Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AM: I am thrilled to be choreographing for the MET Opera next season in a brand new production of Rusalka directed by Mary Zimmerman. It's an honor and a thrill.
LA: How do you unwind or celebrate after an opening?
AM: There's nothing like a cold glass of champagne!
LA: What do you see in Company XIV’s near future?
AM: My sincere hope is to find a home space for XIV's unique brand of immersive theater. To be able to offer consistency to my performing artists and patrons would be a dream. I see XIV in a fabulous new home where dance, opera and circus is performed nightly and the champagne flows into the wee hours of the night. I hope to see you there!
Contact your Attaché for details on what’s next for Company XIV.