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Wednesday, February 15,2012

Tutu good to be true

There’s more than meets the eye when Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo takes the stage

by Paul Wozniak

Since its inception in 1974, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has been keeping the ballet world on its toes — male toes, that is. The all-male repertory company from New York continues its almost 40-year legacy of sending up classical and contemporary ballet pieces in drag.

The sequences are based on choreography you may have seen female ballet dancers perform: twirls and pirouettes in tutus and tiaras. But as artistic director and 30-year company veteran Tory Dobrin explains, dancers in drag are not impersonating the grace or delicacy of female dancers.

“We don’t want the audience to think that we’re women because we’re not,” Dobrin said, in a phone interview. “We’re doing these roles in these costumes as a male might do them with that kind of energy that a male has.”

Incorporating choreography from beloved ballets like “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty,” Trockadero dancers broaden the gestures and add slapstick elements to lovingly spoof ballet and its insider culture and ethnic heritage. For example, Trockadero dancers mock ballet stereotypes as they assume fictitious Russian personas like Marina Plezegetovstageskaya, complete with bios about the hardships of growing up in Russia. Onstage, dancers might play up diva tendencies by acting out jealousies or excessively bowing to the audience. And, similar to any drag show, there is an extra level of spectacle not found in “straight” comedy, from makeup to attitude, that makes Trockadero an experience to be seen rather than explained.

Repertoire pieces satirize particular choreographers like “Go for Barocco,” which Trockadero’s website describes as a “stylistic heir to Balanchine’s ‘Middle-Blue-Verging-On-Black-And-White Period,’” or “Le Cage,” with choreography inspired by Jerome Robbins. Audience members are not required to be ballet scholars, but those who are will certainly appreciate professional skills required to execute parodies of specific and challenging styles.

Still, Dobrin emphasizes the company’s humor is broad enough for dance lovers and outsiders of all ages. “Everything is done for comedy purposes but with the exceptional talent of the dancers it makes it a really good evening for everyone,” says Dobrin. “People who love dance and don’t love dance love comedy.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18

Wharton Center

$25-$38

(800) WHARTON

www.whartoncenter.com

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