Pas de Dudes
Ballet gets the Trock treatment.
It’s a mouthful of a name: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. But its concept, says artistic director Tory Dobrin, is short and sweet: “We’re an all-male comedy ballet company. It’s as simple as that.”
With tongue-in-cheek stage names like Ida Nevasayneva, Yakaterina Verbosovich and Jacques d’Aniels, the men of the Ballets Trockadero tour nearly 40 weeks a year to sold-out houses from London to Tokyo. They trot out some of ballet’s most venerable mastodons (think Swan Lake and Balanchine), but en travesti—in other words, in drag.
In an era when cutting-edge ballets tend to be minimalist affairs, these larger-than-life dancers decked out in tulle and size-12 toe shoes are a breath of fresh air. The company, known affectionately as the Trocks, celebrates classical ballet while lampooning its foibles and excesses, complete with pratfalls, flubbed entrances and squabbling divas. You’ve never seen a Swan Lake like this.
But behind the loopy parody is rock-solid technical prowess (all female parts are danced en pointe) and knowledge of the art. Last year, the Trocks won the London Critics’ Circle National Award for Classical Repertoire, which recognized the company for the finest classical repertoire of performances in the city that year.
Dobrin tells the story of how the Trocks evolved from a midnight drag ballet show in a Manhattan loft. “I started noticing that all these ‘modern’ ballet companies were coming into New York—you could see a whole evening without any tutu or even classical ballet onstage! I thought, that’s not right!” he says. “So we started doing these Russian classical ballets that no one does anymore, and the critics started really appreciating it, because they wanted to see these works—they didn’t understand why they were being banned to the dustbin of ballet history. And then it just kind of spread.”
That was in 1974. By 2006, says Dobrin, “We were at the Bolshoi Theatre. So I guess that’s a pretty long distance to come.”