‘Drag ballet’ show has come a long way
By Lisa Traiger
Friday, May 3, 2013
The men of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo can whip out pirouettes and piqu arabesques that rival those of the best ballerinas. And in toe shoes.
This weekend, the men in pink tights return to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts with their loving parodies of classical and contemporary ballets that are simultaneously sophisticated and silly.
“It’s a great introduction to the ballet,” says Tory Dobrin, the company’s longtime artistic director. “Why shouldn’t kids get a chance to laugh at ballet? It should be fun.”
Grown--ups, too, will appreciate the Trocks for their comic value and for their scrupulous attention to ballet history.
Founded nearly 40 years ago on a whim by a bunch of ballet--loving men, the Trocks have grown in skill and sophistication over the decades. At first, it was a seat--of--the--pants operation, with performances in downtown New York lofts, off--off Broadway or in late--night clubs. These days, the troupe, which tours 30 to 40 weeks a year, is far more likely to dance in an opera house. Recent tour stops have included the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
Dobrin, who no longer dances, signed on in 1980 after training in ballet and modern dance and trying the Broadway--style dance circuit. He wasn’t a complete novice when it came to toe shoes, having taken pointe classes from an old--school Russian teacher while studying at the Houston Ballet in the 1970s.
“These days, though, the guys are coming in completely comfortable on pointe,” Dobrin says. “They obviously have taken pointe classes either in their academies or in open classes.”
That was Boysie Dikobe’s experience. The South African--trained dancer, who spent a year at the Washington School of Ballet, has been a Trock since early 2011. “I got my first pointe shoes when I was 12. It was part of my training,” Dikobe says, adding that learning to dance on pointe not only strengthened his ankles, but also made him a better partner when working with women.
But pointe work is just part of the Trockadero mystique. What matters just as much, if not more, is being funny, Dobrin says. Each dancer plays a character, whether a wilting flower, a narcissistic prince or an egomaniacal diva, and dances both female and male roles.
Dikobe’s female character, onetime film actress Sonia Leftova, is known as the “Prune Danish of Russian Ballet.” As male dancer Andrei Leftov, Dikobe wears a blonde pageboy wig and overly brocaded vests.
The bottom line, Dobrin says, is that the Trocks are entertainers. “We’re still doing drag ballet. Today we’re just doing it in the great theaters.”