Dancer at home
Since leaving New Zealand in 2003 McCormack has danced on stages throughout Australia, Europe, and Asia. He’s been back to New Zealand on and off to create and choreograph, but it wasn’t until last year that he decided New Zealand was a good place in which to base himself again.
“I came back to New Zealand because I needed to establish myself somewhere where I could envisage being for some time,” McCormack says. “I wanted to focus more on choreography and that needs some stability behind it.”
McCormack graduated from the New Zealand School of Dance in 2001, but dance, he says, was not his first choice of career. As a teenager growing up in Rangiora near Christchurch he was “obsessed” with break dancing. He finished high school and decided to go to drama school.
“That lasted six months. It just wasn’t me. I just thought it was silly and I should do a trade.”
He began a building apprenticeship.
“It was good, but it didn’t fit somehow. The boss let me do ballet classes in the evenings as long as I didn’t tell anyone.”
He then met dance tutor Greer Robertson.
“She put my feet on the ground. She looked after me and pointed me in the right direction. I quit building and enrolled at the New Zealand School of Dance.”
McCormack says as an older student he was “well behind” everyone else at the school and it was “good old fashioned hard work” that saw him through. “I always imagined Douglas Wright was looking at me behind the mirrors and that pushed me to do better.”
His strategy worked and as soon as he graduated he was dancing for the Douglas Wright Dance Company and then the Royal New Zealand Ballet. In 2003 he joined the Australian Dance Theatre and in 2005 the Les Ballets C de la B in Belgium.
“I’d seen Les Bellets C de la B in Wellington at the International Arts Festival in 2000 and it blew my head off. I so wanted to work with this company.”
McCormack plans to tour with Australia’s Chuncky Move dance company to America and then back with Les Bellets for a tour of Japan. Meanwhile he’s concentrating on his latest work Sex, a piece he’s created for Footnote Dance Company’s Made in New Zealand season. The season has toured New Zealand and comes finally to Wellington’s Opera House on June 12. He’s surprised at the reaction to his latest work. Some have seen perversity in the piece which McCormack says isn’t there.
“There’s no penetration or even nudity, so I’m not sure why people have been shocked by it. A woman came up to me in Auckland and said my piece didn’t belong on stage but in a bedroom. I said whose bedroom?”
Sex, McCormack says, is about shifting emotion, the contrast between beauty and ugly, pain and safety and skin on flesh. It’s the last part in a trilogy of work he’s created - Stelth, created for Footnote Dance in 2009, and Sum created for the NZ School of Dance graduation in 2011. It’s one of four new works presented in Footnote Dance’s new season of Made in New Zealand, which includes works by fellow choreographers Malia Johnson, Clare O’Neill and Sarah Foster.
The Footnote season is the last to be presided over by the company’s founder Deirdre Tarrant.
“Deirdre has been a springboard for so many of New Zealand’s dancers and choreographers,” McCormack says. “She’s been a support to so many, not only creatively, but emotionally as well.”
Made in New Zealand, Footnote Dance, The Opera House, June 12 and 13.