Categorized | Arts, Community

Men in Tights: Serious Dancers Who Don’t Take it Too Seriously

Posted on 01 July 2013

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Sascha Vaughn photo).

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Sascha Vaughn photo).

By Emily J Weitz 

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a troupe of ballet dancers that takes the seriousness out of the ballet and blows the doors wide open for audiences from ballet aficionados to comedy club frequenters.

“The company was founded in 1974 in New York City,” says Tory Dobrin, who is the artistic director with the group, “by a couple of guys who were dancers and comedians and wanted to blend the two together.”

What has resulted is a unique, two-hour show that features professional ballet dancers performing classic works in a way that flips over all your preconceived notions. The all-male company steps into roles typically played by delicate female ballerinas, and humor ensues.

“We’re not just men doing women’s roles,” says Dobrin, who started out as one of the dancers in the early 80s and danced with the group until 1996. “We’re not trying to emulate women. We are guys, and when we step into these roles, and these costumes and tutus, it’s for comedic effect.”

Dobrin emphasizes that they are not trying to achieve what a female ballerina needs to achieve to be considered successful.

“We approach the role in a way a male dancer would,” he explains. “Male ballet dancers use more of an attack. Women are looking for more of an ethereal, delicate finesse. It’s like looking at gazelles running through the African prairie or buffalo running through the prairie. It’s a different look, a different bone structure, and a different energy.”

The fact that men are performing these roles, which were designed for female dancers, is inherently funny.

“When you have a big guy with muscular arms and legs getting involved in something that is usually associated with a delicate look, that can be comedic.”

However, that humor isn’t enough to sustain a two-hour performance, and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has spent the last forty years perfecting their shows, which offer a wide variety of entertainment beyond slapstick humor.

“We offer different kinds of dance, comedy, and personalities,” says Dobrin. “We utilize a variety of dance styles, costuming, and colors, along with different music.”

They have a lot of acts in their repertoire, and in this performance they’ll bring out Act II of Swan Lake, a George Balanchine parody, and a pas de deux from Don Quixote, among other pieces.

“There are lots of pas de deux, that are about eight to ten minutes,” explains Dobrin, “and are usually done by a man and a ballerina. They’re show stoppers. We have many in our repertoire.”

The one they’ll perform at WHBPAC is one of the more straight performances they’ll do. Two men will play the roles that usually a man and woman play, but otherwise the choreography is pretty much true to the original.

Because of the skill required to nail these dances, people who know and appreciate the New York City Ballet or other prestigious ballet companies will appreciate these performances. But Dobrin explains that many who are otherwise not interested in the ballet have come to appreciate it through this troupe, because it brings people in for the humor and keeps them in awe with the talent.

“It has a wide appeal,” he says. “You’ll see a large spectrum of society in our shows. That’s why we’ve lasted forty years. Theater, opera, ballet – they all have certain kinds of crowds. But we bring everyone in.”

Les Ballets has also become appealing to kids, and to families who want to expose their children to the ballet in a fun, accessible way.

“It’s a great introduction to ballet for kids,” says Dobrin.

This idea of taking something that is usually serious and making it funny is nothing new, and it’s certainly popular these days, as is evident in satirical news shows like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

“It gives you an opportunity to laugh at something you wouldn’t laugh at otherwise,”  says Dobrin. “It’s what we do. We have a nice reputation of a good quality show of dancing and comedy. It’s fun. It’s a couple of hours well spent in the theater.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will be performing at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. WHBPAC is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. Call the box office at 631-288-1500 for tickets, which are between $55 and $85.

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