All-male dance troupe Ballet Trocks rocks it
March 15, 2014
Like most Aspenites, chances are you have spring fever. The time of year has come to loosen up the clothing and the attitudes. In short, it's time to say goodbye to a long and difficult winter and, in the poetic words of Deee Lite, "dance and have some fun."
There is no better way to kick off this spring season of dance and fun than with the most entertaining dance troupe on the planet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or The Trocks for short. Founded in 1974 by a group of ballet enthusiasts presenting a playful, entertaining view of traditional, classical ballet in parody and in drag, The Trocks is scheduled to perform at the Aspen District Theater on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. This is the company's first performance in the area in more than a decade.
Think Shakespeare of the Elizabethan era or the Harlem Globetrotters of the 1980s. Ballet Trocks believes in the joy and folly of the ballet world and brings stage performances intended to strip away the pretense but at the same time honor the genre.
"It is comedy with ballets that are familiar to the audience," said Trocks artistic director Tory Dobrin. "They may come to see 'Swan Lake,' but it's not the ballets that are important. For us, people are coming to our show to see our personalities on stage. Our dancers are keeping each performance fresh."
In Aspen, The Trocks will be performing pieces "Swan Lake," "Patterns in Space" and "Paquita." The troupe is made up of accomplished dancers that have a deep interest in keeping audiences of all ages engaged. And, Dobrin says, it takes a special spirit of a dancer to dress in fabulous costumes, thick makeup, Ken-doll wigs and pointe shoes.
"If you are a classical ballet dancer, you already are used to hard work and the obligation it takes to start so early in dance," Dobrin said. "If you want to dance in comedy, then you have an even more individual and eccentric nature. Then if you do it in pointe shoes, you have to add another element, and then do to it in drag, well, that calls for a special kind of dancer's personality."
The fact that men dance all the parts — heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, nymphs and princesses — enhances, rather than mocks, the spirit of dance as an art form, delighting knowledgeable ballet audiences and novices alike. The transition from male roles to those of the female and the ability to dance en pointe are not as difficult as one might think.
"I like to think of it in terms of tennis," Dobrin said. "When tennis players go on the practice court, they are learning exactly the same strokes, running to the net, backhand, forehand. There is really no difference. There is a difference, however, in how you perform it on the court or, in this case, on the stage. That's what we are about. We are not there to find the ethereal and finesse of a female dancer. We are going for the attack, jumping and turning with power."
By mid-1975, The Trocks had found an audience thanks to the troupe's inspired blend of dance knowledge, comic approach and the fact that men can, indeed, dance en pointe without falling on their faces.
"The pointe shoe is just a piece of equipment," Dobrin said. "There is no difference at all from demi pointe to pointe. It's just making that move with more effort. Ironically, all of the dancers' turns tend to get better, and it does develop a more streamlined-looking leg. Otherwise, there is absolutely not a reason, physically, men can't go en pointe."
With the barriers of classical ballet broken on so many fronts, this allows the walls of dance to be crushed, welcoming in audiences that perhaps might not be open to a traditional ballet repertoire. The show is appealing for those who love all kinds of dance, from classical to Broadway, and is appropriate for adults and children, husbands and wives.
The original concept of The Trocks has not changed since its inception. It is a company of professional male dancers performing the full range of classical, modern and original works in faithful renditions of those dance styles.
"We cast a pretty big net," Dobrin said of his company, which performs more than 100 performances a year worldwide, including at the mecca of dance venues, The Joyce in New York. "It is quite a fun and good show. And we have no plans to change it, because it's working. We have a lot of silliness, and we dance really well."