Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Judgement of Paris (Company XIV)

BOTTOM LINE: It's sexy, it's dance-y, it's the story of Helen of Troy. This "dramatic entertainment" includes some intensely good dancing but is also pretty avant-garde in its presentation. For those who like modern dance and quirky storytelling.

The Judgement of Paris is directed and choreographed by notable new choreographer Austin McCormick. McCormick is a recent Julliard grad and the Artistic Director of Company XIV. His choreography is heavily modern with a backbone of traditional ballet. And his dancers are all athletic and graceful performing the movement. It seems like McCormick is a seasoned dancer with an itch to do something new and interesting.

Quoting directly from the press release (because I can't find a way to say it any better), "The Judgement of Paris includes French Can Can girls, Greek tragedy, golden apples, Baroque pageantry, courtesans, goddesses, circus freaks, blonde bombshells, Spartan Warriors and Helen of Troy." I'd say that's pretty accurate. And all in 90 minutes.

With an emphasis on Moulin Rouge-esque presentation, the performace is sexual and playful and maintains an air of French fun. The dancers are clearly enjoying themselves as they commit fully to their roles and luckily, it's a fun that's shared with the audience; it's hard not to have a good time. Said fun is further supported at intermission when full-sized candy bars are handed out to the audience by the cast members themselves (seriously, full-sized candy bars, like you're trick-or-treating in the fancy neighborhood).

With music spanning multiple genres and centuries, The Judgement of Paris does occasionally feel like an experiment in creative storytelling, but overall it seems like a cohesive performance. It's an interesting way to tell the story of Helen of Troy, and a plausible correlation is drawn between what is hailed as "the first ever beauty contest" and the 20th century vision of elegance. The production itself is gorgeous. Company XIV's amazingly cool theatre (an old warehouse converted into a performance space) is prime real estate for the staging of this piece. The lighting and sound are perfect in the cavernous room and the technical design is top-notch. Their budget and production value seem atypically luxurious for a dance show in a grungy neighborhood in Brooklyn.

The Judgement of Paris is definitely a good time and the performances are impressive. Check it out if you enjoy dance, and especially you're interested in expressive and unique ways to tell stories. But hurry, it only plays through May.

(The Judgement of Paris plays in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn at 303 Bond Street. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through May 31. Tickets are $20 and $15 for students; buy tickets online at or by calling 212.868.4444. Get more information about Company XIV at

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