Inside story: Ross McCormack

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McCormack – who began his career with a brief stint as a builder... insists that his fascination at the moment is with how the built environment affects the body.

McCormack – who began his career with a brief stint as a builder… insists that his fascination at the moment is with how the built environment affects the body. Image: Garth Badger

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Autographed books. “My work has allowed me to meet artists I admire and I have books of their work. Antony Gormley’s book came about when I was performing in Sadler’s Wells Theatre. He was in the audience and afterwards he came up to me and invited me over to his studio. We spent half a day talking about his work and I was pinching myself!”

Autographed books. “My work has allowed me to meet artists I admire and I have books of their work. Antony Gormley’s book came about when I was performing in Sadler’s Wells Theatre. He was in the audience and afterwards he came up to me and invited me over to his studio. We spent half a day talking about his work and I was pinching myself!” Image: Garth Badger

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Prop in progress. “I like that a rock is in a continual state of erosion once it dislodges; it is always getting smaller. For me, that is so poetic in the sense that its job is just to diminish, silently; you never see any change, as opposed to dynamic virtuoso dance.”

Prop in progress. “I like that a rock is in a continual state of erosion once it dislodges; it is always getting smaller. For me, that is so poetic in the sense that its job is just to diminish, silently; you never see any change, as opposed to dynamic virtuoso dance.” Image: Garth Badger

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Backstage passes. “To me, they represent hotel living and touring, and each reminds me of what happened at that stage.”

Backstage passes. “To me, they represent hotel living and touring, and each reminds me of what happened at that stage.” Image: Garth Badger

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Painting. “Replicas from sketches I have made. I project them onto canvas and draw them out of ink with a fine brush. I have made many and always gift them.”

Painting. “Replicas from sketches I have made. I project them onto canvas and draw them out of ink with a fine brush. I have made many and always gift them.” Image: Garth Badger

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Dance diaries. “I have most of my dances sketched here. It is an archive that has not made sense until recent years when I find myself going back to them often.”

Dance diaries. “I have most of my dances sketched here. It is an archive that has not made sense until recent years when I find myself going back to them often.” Image: Garth Badger

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McCormack’s home life is serenaded by the hum of nearby cars traversing the Northern Motorway. His small, cabin-like house on the lower end of Auckland’s Herne Bay is perched just above the mechanical river of vehicles and a horizon of moored yachts bobbing in the Westhaven Marina.

“My partner and I were looking at inner-city apartments,” says McCormack, who recently returned from Belgium after spending more than a decade as a professional dancer there. “We were after something spacious, easy, minimal but when I saw this I realised how this is much more like my life on the road in Europe.”

Dance diaries. “I have most of my dances sketched here. It is an archive that has not made sense until recent years when I find myself going back to them often.” Image:  Garth Badger

The constant movement is possibly an apt descriptor for his newly abandoned life as a dancing nomad. As expected, his possessions are few and selective. Books by famous friends and acquaintances (mostly visual artists), mementoes from his travels and paraphernalia from his other passion – fishing – all populate this “workshop-like lounge”, which he uses as a social space and where he prototypes props, makes paintings for friends and the like.

McCormack – who began his career with a brief stint as a builder and who often designs the stages for his work – insists that his fascination at present is with how the built environment affects the body. 

“This is a huge thing for me at the moment: how the environment affects the dance and the end result of my work.” He explains how in his profession the sets and scenography are often built after the choreography… “I am a bit bored with that,” he says. “I really want, from the first day really, large components that the body has to negotiate.”

This has translated into the usage of fake stones in the upcoming New Zealand Dance Company season of The Absurdity of Humanity (which he co-created) and is likely to zip through into his work as lead choreographer for the World of Wearable Arts.  


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