BWW Reviews: Austin McCormick's ROCOCO ROUGE, an Intimate and Sensual Delight

In the scant eight years since director/choreographer Austin McCormick began recruiting his assemblage of classical dancers, actors, operatic vocalists and circus artists, Company XIV has become one of New York's most consistently intriguing and enticing stage troupes.

Davon Rainey, Shelly Watson and Company
(Photo: Phillip Van Nostrand)

Though McCormick has taken inspiration for his evocative pieces from such diverse sources as the works of Charles Bukowski, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and The Brothers Grimm, the company's artistic spirit has continually been influenced by the more erotic side of the Baroque period during the reign of France's Louis XIV.

They've been nomadic since Hurricane Sandy damaged their Brooklyn venue, but with their newest production, Rococo Rouge, Company XIV has settled into an inviting new home, appropriately on Lafayette Street. The Bar at XIV is an intimate lounge that's open to the general public for cocktails, decorated to suggest the company's taste for 17th Century sensuality. That style continues in the performance space, a plush, jewel box cabaret room with tiered tables.

The show itself is a delightful sampler of dances and specialty routines, performed by scantily-clad men and women who elegantly undulate to an eclectic mix of music that includes both period pieces and more contemporary fare arranged in a unifying style.

Laura Careless (Photo: Phillip Van Nostrand)

The evening is hosted by neo-burlesque favorite, Shelly Watson, whose playfully suggestive bon mots invite audience members to imbibe and indulge. The charming Watson's legit soprano voice and more bluesy tones are put to luscious use, as is the lovely soprano voice of Brett Umlauf and the pop turns by Katrina Cunningham, who also pole dances to guitarist Rob Mastrianni's accompaniment.

Soloist Laura Careless, a company mainstay, is continually one of the most interesting and dramatically detailed dancers on New York's theatre stages. Her two featured ballet pieces are emotionally captivating.

Cyr Wheel artist Courtney Giannone spins athletically on the floor and lyra artists Allison Ulrich and Steven Trumon Gray pose sensually while suspended mid-air. Charismatic strip teaser Davon Rainey is both finely chiseled and finely comic as he peels to Watson's vocals.

Though the show may include material by Beyonce and Britney Spears (along with Handel, Bizet and Peggy Lee, among others), Zane Pihlstrom's set and costume designs, dramatically lit by Jeanette Yew, keep us visually in the royal court of Louis XIV, as McCormick's company entertains us royally.

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