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Review: Laura Careless Dynamic and Decadent in Company XIV's Erotic SNOW WHITE

Company XIV's brilliantly evocative director/choreographer Austin McCormick isn't one to set his creations in stone. Six years ago his theatre/dance company's elegant take on the Brothers Grimm's SNOW WHITE, while not exactly children's theatre, was a serious rumination on the dangers of vanity that was suitable for the entire family.

Laura Careless (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry)

But the troupe that takes its inspiration from the courtly baroque entertainments that pleased royal senses in in the days of France's Louis XIV has since been earning a reputation for more erotically-charged fare and McCormick's mixture of classical ballet with burlesque, opera, circus arts, pop music and fetish fashion has become as recognizable a style to New York audiences as the those of Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins.

So add dancing boys in fishnets, an ensemble sporting bejeweled ball gags, a bit of pole dancing and a freshly irreverent attitude and McCormick's new take on a classic tale is steamy dose of theatrical foreplay.

Fortunately, the strongest asset from the original remains; the dynamic performance of XIV's long-time lead dancer, Laura Careless as the narcissistic queen. A founding member of the company, Careless is a dancing actor of striking detail and emotion who can draw in an audience with both commanding dramatics and quirky campiness.

Despite the title, the evening is fashioned as the queen's showcase and Careless, first seen indulging in her own enticing decadence as finely-toned gentlemen surround her with mirrors, is a thoroughly captivating star. Playing off her character's obsession with killing her young and lovely rival for the claim of fairest in the land, McCormick highlights her talents with a choreographed mad scene, a finely-realized sequence where she tries constricting the girl to death with a corset and a silly celebration set to Ruth Brown's recording of "Lucky Lips."

Hilly Bodin and Courtney Giannone (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry)

While the title character is a bit of a second banana, Hilly Bodin makes a lovely and blithe Snow White; a bit of an Eve Harrington but too naïve for her own good. In a hat tip to the tale's German origins, the episodic evening is hosted Weimar cabaret style by Lea Helle who introduces Snow White's seven protectors as cut-out puppets.

Aerialist and operative vocalist Marcy Richardson sings Schubert, Handel and Britney Spears and, after Snow White bites into a poisoned apple and is encased in a glass coffin, inventively created with plastic wrap, she's rescued with a kiss by cyr wheel artist Courtney Giannone, who stays regally dignified while spinning inside her circular apparatus.

Designers Zane Pihlstrom (set/costumes) and Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (lights/projections) keep the visuals soft and sensual, save for moments that pop out with energy when the antics get wacky.

In the hands of Company XIV, SNOW WHITE is a ravishing mood piece that is sure to get couples in the mood.

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