The Dance Enthusiast Meets Company XIV’s “Rococo Rouge"
Chatting with Courtney Giannone, Davon Rainey, and Austin McCormick
“Remind people that there are many performers in the company who make this happen as well as designers and musicians!”
These were dancer Davon Rainey’s words to me as I was packing up my writing gear to leave the intimate theater space at 428 Lafayette, which currently houses Austin McCormick’s Company XIV. The statement demonstrates what a likable bunch of artists work together under McCormick’s direction in the current production of Rococo Rouge, the hugely entertaining variety burlesque show about the many aspects of love. Rainey and cast mate Courtney Giannone happen to have standout solo turns within this delightful mix, and I was grateful they took the time to meet me before getting ready for that evening’s performance.
When I entered the space to conduct the interview a week after seeing the revue, McCormick greeted me while he finished placing name cards on tables. Henning Rübsam for The Dance Enthusiast.
Austin: We worked on this particular show for an intense three weeks in the studio, and then had a good week of tech rehearsals in the theater before we were ready.
Rainey: Austin and I met at Juilliard. We were in the same class. He graduated in 2006, but I left early to work with a bunch of other companies. We always kept in touch, and as soon as he formed his company, I was part of it. Now we are working full-time.
Courtney: I have been with the company for only a year. The Ailey/Fordham program gave me my dance training. I saw an audition posting and decided to bring my cyr wheel along.
Austin chimes in from the back of the room: I thought ‘what the heck!’ — this is AMAZING. Because she is a dancer, she makes it flow unlike other acrobats. I had thought about incorporating some kinds of acrobatics into my work, but when I saw her, I said ‘Let’s do this now!’
Henning Rubsam for The Dance Enthusiast: I was blown away by your wheel act in the show, Courtney. And I loved that you played the piano in the lounge during intermission. You are multi-talented. How was your cyr wheel number put together?
Courtney: Austin creates a very musical frame, and I try things out. Then we play Q & A to see what is possible, and he asks me to change things. And even though he does not have the specific vocabulary, we arrive at a collaborative product.
Davon: Yes, he comes with ideas, but he loves to hear feedback. He creates an atmosphere in which you want to take the chance to challenge yourself. And he is open to changes. Sometimes, something unplanned happens during a show, and he comes back and says ‘I loved that mistake. Do it again!’
TDE: You really put yourselves out there, and after the show the audience mingles and talks to you. Isn’t that difficult?
Courtney: It can be strange because sometimes you misjudge a reaction. I had these bunch of suits standing around me at the piano without a single smile. But in the end they all were friendly and professed what a good time they had. Maybe the drinks helped. (laughs)
Davon: It is a weird dynamic after the show for me because my solo is in the end. I need ten to fifteen minutes to take a break and slip into myself again. Then I can deal with it. I am in my own head again. And the audience members do not think I am the same person I was on stage because I then project who I really am... Our Emcee Shelly Watson is an amazing people person. She draws performers and audience together.
Courtney: She invites conversation after the show, and in the show, she breaks that wall immediately and differently every night.
TDE: That last number of yours, Davon, I saw in the company’s old space in Brooklyn years ago as part of La Serpent Rouge and I liked it. But this time it sent me on this emotional roller coaster ride. You were authentic, raw, and spectacular.
Davon: I felt maybe too comfortable in the number because I have had six years to listen to it, so I needed to find something new in it. It really is the story of how I fell in love with someone, and my heart got broken. This last rehearsal process was quick, but I somehow accessed undertones. We decided to bring this solo back because it ties in with the different stories and vignettes of love.
TDE: Courtney and Davon, you two give heart-breaking performances. Thank you for your commitment and artistry.
ROCOCO ROUGE runs through November 2 at 428 Lafayette from Tuesday – Sunday.
COMPANY XIV will continue with its “Nutcracker Rouge” November 5 – January 31.