BWW Reviews: NUTCRACKER ROUGE Savors Erotic Intimacy

Since premiering at Company XIV's former Brooklyn home, the brilliant director/choreographer Austin McCormick's Nutcracker Rouge has gone through various incarnations, though its erotic opulence and gasp-worthy displays of muscle and sensual grace have remained consistent.

BWW Reviews:  NUTCRACKER ROUGE Savors Erotic Intimacy
Company (Photo: Joshua Flannigan)

Their newest version, the second production in the company's new tastefully decadent, baroque-inspired lounge and performance space, is certainly the most intimate, with dancers undulating inches from patrons and acrobats cavorting not very far above.

Once again the company's leading soloist, the elegant and expressive Laura Careless, displays why she's among New York's top theatre dancers. As the virtuous Marie-Claire, who is sent on a sugary tour of delectable sweets, she spends most of the evening reacting in wonder to the bawdy doings of the exceptional ensemble. Her climactic solo of sexual awakening as the Sugar Plum Fairy is done with physical virtuosity but emotional simplicity that draws the audience in, giving the scene a voyeuristic feel. When she's joined by the commanding Todd Hanebrink for an enticing pas de deux, the steamy atmosphere is breathtakingly beautiful.

BWW Reviews:  NUTCRACKER ROUGE Savors Erotic Intimacy
Laura Careless (Photo: Joshua Flannigan)

The evening is hosted by the charmingly gregarious Shelly Watson, who teases patrons with light double-entendres and candy nestled in her ample cleavage. The evening's recorded score mixes Tchaikovsky with the likes of Vivaldi, Madonna and Ellington and Watson matches a soulful "Russian Lullaby" (paired with Brett Umlauf) with a fizzy "Material Girl."

Katrina Cunningham's erotically liquid rendition of Lana Del Rey's "Yayo" accompanies Allison Ulrich and Courtney Giannone's aerial feats in hoops hanging above the audience. In other segments, Giannone spins in dizzying circles inside the Cyr Wheel and Ulrich teams with Seven Trumon for a stunning pole dancing pas de deux.

Set and costume designer Zane Pihlstrom enhances orgiastic ensemble depictions of wind-up dolls, candy cherries, Turkish delights and licorice boys, but while burlesque is an important aspect of Company XIV's style, inspired by the salon performances during the reign of Louis XIV, there is always the sense of high art about the proceedings. This is one adults show that really is for grown-ups.

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