Like many industries seemingly dominated by women, ballet began as a men-only activity. As was the case with theatre actors and yogis, women were simply not considered fit enough, mentally or physically, to withstand the challenges of ballet. Of course, times have changed and now ballet is considered an almost entirely feminine activity, so much so that a boy in a ballet class is a hot commodity and male dancers in classical ballets are often reduced to little more than moving scenery, lifting and displaying the female dancers.
Into this picture enters Les Ballets Trockodero de Monte Carlo (also known as Les Trocks), an all-male ballet troupe that performs traditional ballets with its dancers filling both the male and female parts. In Les Trocks that means the boys stepping into toe shoes and proving they can pirouette on one toe with just the same elegance and grace their female equivalents are known for.
Combine this skill with a healthy dose of humour – a man in a dress (or tutu) is a showbiz comedy cliché, after all – and you’ve got the foundation for a dance company that has spent over forty years performing to packed houses across the globe.
“You will never see another show like it,” says Svetlana Dvoretsky, President and Executive Producer of Show One Productions, presenting Les Trocks’ current tour, “On one level, this comes from the humour of full-grown men in drag and en pointe. Audiences quickly realize, however, this playfulness is backed by athletic and artistic skill of the highest degree. Even as they make you laugh – they take your breath away.”
This skill, according to Dvoretsky, is what keeps the show from straying into the dangerous territory of reaffirming or exacerbating gender stereotypes.
“When you have a combination of talent, great taste, and a sense of humour – it all works into the magic,” explains Dvoretsky.
Performing reimagined versions of classical ballets like Swan Lake and Paquita, Les Trocks relies on more than just men in tutus for their humour. Each piece is a loving send-up of serious dance, bringing the foibles and conceits of both classical ballet and modern dance to the fore.
This is reflected in what Dvoretsky sees as near-universal acclaim for the company. Men and women, young and old, dancers and non-dancers alike, “the audience responds equally – with great enthusiasm.”
“In some really odd cases I have seen men being very tied up at the beginning, but then the charm of the show relaxes them and they allow themselves to enjoy it.”
The last time Les Trocks performed in Vancouver was almost thirty years ago. While this might lead one to believe that Les Trocks were not well-received here, according to Dvoretsky, it’s a simple matter of scheduling.
“They are one of the busiest dance companies in the world,” explains Dvoretsky on their prolonged absence.
Busy indeed, Les Trocks have performed in over 30 countries and 500 cities, and have only managed to fit one night in Vancouver into their schedule.
So if you’re busy this weekend, Dvoretsky has one thing to say: “We will come back, we promise.”
Hopefully it won’t be another thirty years before you get your next chance.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (649 Cambie St, Vancouver) for one-night only on January 24. Some tickets still remain. Tickets are available online at Tickets Tonight.