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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 10, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 19
Trock drivin' men - Les Ballets Trockadero returns to Seattle
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Trock drivin' men - Les Ballets Trockadero returns to Seattle

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO
MEANY HALL
May 16-18


The Trocks are coming! The Trocks are coming!

A rare treat arrives at Meany Hall on the UW campus later this month: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. An all-male ballet dance troupe, in which men play all the traditional parts that women have danced for eons, brings their unique blend of classic ballet and scruffy chest hairs tip-toeing around the stage.

Even though all the choreography is exactly the same as other troupes doing Swan Lake, for instance, in this company personality counts! In most classical ballet performances, a dancer should allow the body to speak without drawing attention to him- or herself, except insofar as he or she can perform the steps beautifully. The humor in the Trocks' performances usually is in the juxtaposition of a particular dancer and how uniquely he might perform those same steps.

The Trocks were founded in New York City in 1974, by men who wanted to perform the mostly female repertoire of classical ballets. Men couldn't be the waltzing flowers in Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers, could they? Or the dying swan in the aforementioned Swan Lake? But like women who long for the male roles of Hamlet and Macbeth, male ballet dancers wanted to perform the great roles of women in ballet.

FLASH AND FLAIR
In a conversation with SGN, Trockadero ballet master Paul Ghiselin said, 'We model ourselves after a crusty old Russian tour company where our name comes in the style of Ballet Russe, the old fashioned Russian style. The use of the head and neck, it's big and grand epaulement. Use your flair in the grand manner. Very flashy. Not dainty at all. Nobody tones themselves down here.'

Ghiselin, who joined the Trocks as a dancer in 1995, recalled, 'I had been dancing as a professional since '81, and I wanted to do something different and wanted to dance with humor. Also [there was] the whole idea of the parody, dancing in costumes and en pointe because I would never do that elsewhere.

'It was developed for women, to make women look more light and ethereal. It was based around femininity. You never saw men en pointe until Trockadero. Teachers would not allow men to take class en pointe.

'I think that's what appeals to a lot of the gentlemen in the company. It builds up strength in the feet and ankles and develops a good line in the foot. That's one reason guys would like to train en pointe without being in Trockadero. 'These days society has taken these things differently. These days some men come into our company completely ready to go and ready for everything in the repertoire. It's exceptional because men don't typically train in pointe shoes.

'I had not ever danced en pointe. I had dabbled. It was learning how to walk all over again. When I first put [toe shoes] on I felt like I was walking on stilts. You have to use your feet differently, develop different muscles in your feet, use your whole body differently - back, legs - to hold your legs up in the shoes. If you don't get it correct, it can cause a lot of damage in your body and in your feet.

'There is a moment you know you're doing it right. Girls typically learn to dance en pointe around 12. Guys have already learned to dance and are adding toe shoes later. A major difference is that women by nature of their bodies are going to be more supple and delicate, whereas guys are going to be more hefty.

'It takes maybe a year to be comfortable. You also get the wig and tights and lashes and it can all be very distracting until you get used to it. We're not trying to pretend that we're women, but we put on all the trappings. Some of our dancers do look like typical ballerinas.'

LIFE ON THE ROAD
As ballet master, Ghiselin has a lot to do, both on and off tour: 'Lead rehearsals, train dancers, teach new dancers their roles, try to get them familiar with our style of performance.' Not surprisingly, he says, the job can be tiring - 'the constant buses and planes and taxis and packing up and going out and repacking again.'

Ghiselin started out doing a lot of boy roles in the classical ballets because he has a lot of dance experience. Similarly to new dancers now, he gradually worked his way into female roles. 'I danced everything,' he said. 'I'm quite well known for my dying swan. In 2007, I became ballet master.'

'I was actually thinking of retiring when I joined, and thought I'd see the world and go out that way. [But] it's a fun job. Tough but fun. The travel is hard. We spend 65% of the year on the road.

'We do a lot of work on the road, constantly keep the repertoire alive, working on ballets that are coming up, rehearsing people in new roles. Everyone has to know everything, double and triple roles. [Dancers can end up] pulling muscles and rotating out. Recently, someone had an asthma attack and couldn't finish the show. All of a sudden. But we could rearrange [dancers] on the spot.

'I don't know what I'd do next, I'm so wrapped in what I'm doing I haven't thought about the next. As long as I can, I'm going to keep going. I know the feet and ankles aren't going to be able to keep going. Right now I can still dance!'

There are a total of 15 dancers who tour, along with the artistic director, a lighting designer, a road manager/stage manager/associate director, and a wardrobe supervisor. It's a tight group that travels the world bringing their special blend of ballet bluster and high-class hijinks. If you have never had the opportunity to see them, count this as a very special treat and plan accordingly! For more information, go to www.trockadero.org. For tickets, call (206) 543-4880 or go to http://uwworldseries.org/world-dance/les-ballets-trockadero-de-monte-carlo/.

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