Snow White, Erotic Night

 

 

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by Eric J. Grimm

 

Company XIV’s erotic dance fairy tales have quickly become a phenomenon at the West Village’s Minetta Lane Theatre, with Nutcracker Rouge becoming a new holiday standard. Their new production of Snow White puts on full, grand display all of the promise and disappointment of their output. So dazzlingly staged but so frustratingly choppy, this explosion of light S&M, clever music arrangements, and often, with a few notable exceptions, technically unimpressive dance is perhaps too ambitious for its own good. Choreographer and director Austin McCormick is to be commended for creating an exciting atmosphere, with the hope that his artistic vision eventually finds some grounding.

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Themes and styles abound in this Snow White, whose pastiche act is held together by costumes that leave little to the imagination and showcase the dancers’ flawless bodies. Even with near-naked performers, very little of what goes on is sexy or even scandalous. Some glittery ball-gags in the beginning are as kinky as it gets and there are too many other influences and focuses to keep an erotic charge going. The production features German and English narration, puppetry, operatic takes on recent pop songs, ballet, showtunes, aerial work, and most hypnotically and impressively, a Cyr wheel performance by Courtney Giannone, which builds the production to the desired effect of rapturous spectacle and superb technique near the end of the show. On the other end of the spectrum is a disastrous flamenco number; Marisol Cabrera is clearly skilled as a flamenco dancer but, joined by so many performers who have not mastered the craft, Cabrera is swallowed up onstage and not permitted to shine.

 

Other performers are similarly stunted throughout. As Snow White, Hilly Bodin does some technically excellent pointe work that arrives far too sporadically and in short supply. Laura Careless puts her all into the wickedness of the evil queen; she reaches to the back of the house with marvelously grotesque contortions of her face but never shows power or command of technique as a dancer due to McCormick’s jerky choreography.

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McCormick’s vision is at its clearest and most captivating when the fewest performers are onstage. A corset dance number between Bodin and Careless is still disappointingly choreographed but nonetheless gorgeously staged and the closest the show gets to actually being sexy. When the whole company is onstage, it’s clear that this is a group of universally talented dancers who aren’t quite an ensemble. They are often out of sync with each other in group numbers and there is some stumbling throughout, though this can mostly be forgiven considering how busy the set is with multiple moving parts, props, and costumes. That said, McCormick’s ability to attract an excellent technical team, including set/costume designer Zane Pihlstrom, technical director John Starmer, lighting/production designer Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, and makeup designer Sarah Cimino among others, often makes Company XIV’s work deserving of its growing success. Even at its worst, McCormick’s Snow White still shows a determination that makes future productions worthy of attention with hope that the results are more artistically sound and way sexier.

 

Snow White. Through March 12 at Minetta Lane Theatre (18Minetta Lane, in the West Village). www.companyxiv.com

 

*Photos: Mark Shelby Perry

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