When men wear tutus...

Updated: 2011-09-25 07:57

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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When men wear tutus...

Can you imagine grown men in tutus, corsets and giant pointe shoes executing double tours en l'air and fouetts? That's what happens when the Trocks take the stage. Their name is short for Les Ballet Trockaderos de Monte Carlo, an all-male comedy ballet troupe in drag.

As the busiest all-men ballet troupe in the world, they average 125 to 140 performances a year. They touch down in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in September and October.

"We have appeared in over 500 cities worldwide, including at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and the Chatelet Theater in Paris. We are thrilled to be performing in these great theaters in China," says Tory Dobrin, the artistic director of the New York city-based troupe.

Founded in 1973 by a group of ballet enthusiasts, the Trocks made their debut in off-off Broadway lofts. It proved to be a huge success and they quickly expanded their stage outside the United States.

The Trocks' aesthetic is based on the Ballets Russes. Each of the Trocks is able to perform both female en pointe and male, and each has a Russian ballerina name. The molting swan Paul Ghiselin is named Ida Nevasayneva and the giant Joshua Grant gets the celebrated name of Katerina Bychkova.

Unlike the classic ballet stars with narrow waists, spindly calves and comely ankles, the Trocks toe with strong ankles, hairy chests and bulky bodies. But with their skillful and vivid impersonation, they continually impress their audience.

"We want the audience to know we are men, not women," says Tory. "We dance as we are. There is no gender."

Underlying the slapstick, comic appearance and campy airs are their homage to and passion for ballet. Besides the chutzpah on stage, the Trocks are experts in pointe work. They stress classical ballet technique and a theatrical sense of humor

"If we are setting up a new work, we tend to concentrate on the classical technique first, then tackle the humor more slowly, so it comes naturally rather than intellectually," says Tory. "The atmosphere is one of hard work but tends to be fun for the most part."

In The Dying Swan, the molting swan keeps toeing on his size-10 pointe shoes for about three minutes, arms swinging softly. It's really hard to imagine that men can do this. However, the Trocks are masters of their art.

The artistic director says he expects the performers to be good dancers first and then have a sense of humor. Of course, they have to be team players to work together.

It's just the second time the Trocks are touring China, although they have performed in Japan many times, where they have gathered a nation-wide cult following.

In China, their repertoire will include The Dying Swan, Swan Lake as well as Raymonda's Wedding.

You can contact the writer at sundayed@chinadaily.com.cn.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/25/2011 page15)