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Into the Ring

Company XIV’s grown-up take on a classic children’s tale

This coming weekend is your last chance to catch “Ferdinand Boylesque Bullfight” in Bushwick.
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The intensity and eroticism of the new production of “Ferdinand Boylesque Bullfight” from Company XIV is only part of what makes this a must-see production — and the best argument I’ve found for heading to Bushwick.

Mounted in the company’s lavish new space — it’s just a hop from the Jefferson Street stop on the L train — the production is a dazzling treat. The venue alone is worth a visit. It’s a gorgeous, spacious cabaret at the back of a bar, reminiscent of the 1930s or thereabouts. You’ll feel, by turns, glamorous and decadent as you’re led to your seat and offered cocktails and snacks.

And then there’s the show. Company XIV is known for its erotic interpretation of “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and its annual holiday offering, “Nutcracker Rouge.” What they all have in common are over-the-top costuming, athletic ballet, and circus all rolled into entertainment both affecting and richly artistic.

“Ferdinand…” is no exception. Staged and choreographed by company founder Austin McCormick, it tells the classic story of the young bull who would rather take time to smell the flowers than fight in the ring. Inspired by the 1936 book, McCormick’s bulls who taunt Ferdinand — and indeed virtually the entire company — are male dancers clad in thongs, feathers, bells, toe shoes, harnesses, and many more pieces… yet, somehow, not much overall. The strong dancing on the small stage is consistently exciting from both the soloists and the corps.

Munro Leaf’s original tale is about Ferdinand, a young bull who is disinclined to fight. When he’s stung by a bee, he becomes so upset that he is deemed ready for the ring. Yet when confronted with a matador, Ferdinand charms the crowd by refusing to fight and ends up retiring to his beloved fields to spend his days in bucolic bliss.

The score ranges from Bizet to Rimsky-Korsakov to Shirley Bassey. It’s a witty assemblage of tunes, inspiring a range of choreographic feats — some in toe shoes, some in mile-high stilettos. Ryan Redmond dances the role of Ferdinand beautifully and sensitively, the tension between his inherent strength and the gentleness of the character is powerful. Làszlò Major dances the role of the bumblebee who stings Ferdinand, with a perfectly executed pole dance (like none you’ve ever seen) and a pas de deux with Redmond. Marcy Richardson is the Matador, who sings the toreador song from “Carmen” and performs a wonderful aerial hoop number, doubly thrilling for its large-scale gymnastics in the smallish space.

This is sensuous storytelling for adults at its finest. Make a trip to Bushwick; from there you will be transported much further.

“Ferdinand…” plays through the end of the month, and “Nutcracker Rouge” begins performances November 8.

FERDINAND BOYLESQUE BULLFIGHT | Company XIV | 383 Troutman St., btwn. Wyckoff & Irving Aves. Oct. 25-26 at 8 p.m.; Thurs, Fri 8 p.m.; Oct. 27 at 6 & 10 p.m.; Oct. 28 at 10 p.m. | $55-$130 at ovationtix.com or 866-811-4111

Updated 9:25 pm, October 23, 2018
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