Side-splitting antics

The all-male dance troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo puts a hilarious spin on a classic art form.

Classical ballet with a good portion of humor and fun. (photo credit: courtesy)
Classical ballet with a good portion of humor and fun.
(photo credit: courtesy)
Growing up, my friend Kurt was taken with ballerinas.
While other boys dreamed of basketball and firefighting, Kurt fantasized about bright lights, costumes and classical music. As a teenager, his dance teachers assured him that a future in ballet was possible and even likely.
However, this did not satisfy him.
Kurt didn’t want to play the male parts, he wanted to lace up a pair of pointe shoes and dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Years later, when Kurt heard about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, he felt as if his wish had been granted.
The company, which will return to Israel this month for a three-city tour, brings together the rich world of drag performance with classical ballet. Artistic director Tory Dorbin presents ballet favorites with a hefty portion of fun and humor.
Dorbin founded the Trocks (as they are affectionately called) in 1974 in New York City. Their first performance took place in a small venue in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan as a kind of experiment. The response of the crowd that night convinced Dorbin that he was on to something. One year later, the Trocks had already won their place in the New York City dance milieu. Today they are one of the most successful touring companies in the world, having recently celebrated their 500th conquered city.
Prior to the Trocks’ arrival on the scene, the common conception about dancing en pointe was that, due to weight distribution, the male body could not achieve the delicate balance needed for the form.
Watching the Trocks perform changed all that. Not only were the men able to pull off the gravity-defying act of dancing in such a way, but they also managed to match and even surpass their female peers in strength and virtuosity.
For this trip to Israel, the Trocks will present Raymonda’s Wedding, Le Grand Pas de Quatre and Swan Lake Act II.
Raymonda’s Wedding was choreographed by Marius Petipa and premiered in Moscow in 1898. Based on Lidia Pashkova’s scenario, Raymonda’s Wedding tells the tale of a young Hungarian noblewoman’s tumultuous trail to the altar. The ballet’s plot has always been a point of confusion for audiences. Full of intrigue and despair, the entirety of Raymonda’s Wedding proved too downbeat for the Trocks.
Therefore, they chose to chop off the majority of the story and present the happy ending. In the Trocks’ version, we meet Raymonda in the moments before she takes to the aisle and follow her to the uproarious reception that follows.
In 1845, manager of Her Majesty’s Theater in London Benjamin Lumley had the brilliant idea to gather together the world’s top ballerinas for a gala performance. Those women were Italian/Swedish dancer Marie Taglioni, Italians Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Cerrito, and Lucile Grahn from Denmark. Once in England, the four divas waited with bated breath to see which of them would receive the favored final variation in Pas de Quatre. In the end, Lumley selected Taglioni, the oldest of the four.
Though the ballet was performed only four times in that year, it is considered one of the most charming ballets of all time and is frequently revived by dance companies.
Swan Lake Act II is the Trocks’ signature ballet. Though many a troupe and many a choreographer have taken on Tchaikovsky’s score, the Trocks’ version is certainly unforgettable. In the second act of the ballet, an evil sorcerer turns Odette, the beautiful princess, into a swan. When Prince Siegfried’s love fails to save Odette, she faces her death in a beautiful and tragic solo. To this sad tale, the Trocks bring their famous whimsy and silliness.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center from October 23 to 26; at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center on October 28; and at the Jerusalem Theater on October 29 (,