Traditional, olde worlde classical ballet is renowned for two things. One, for being pompous and slightly stuffy; and two, for being, er, really quite poofy actually.
Fertile fodder, then, for the parodic swipes of New York’s Trockadero ballet company, a multi-national, all-male, mostly-gay ensemble who have delighted audiences for the past 28 years with their interpretations of the world’s great ballets.
Although the Trocks performed in Melbourne last year, this current season (which opened on Tuesday) marks the first time the company has played in Sydney since 1979. Much has moved on in the world of ballet in the past 20 years, but the Trocks pride themselves on delivering traditional renditions of famous dances -“ no matter how twisted.
Sometimes serious ballet fans appreciate the show the most, because we maintain the old tradition of classical ballet, which is disappearing, says company dancer Raffaele Morra.
Although we are doing a parody, we are doing very purist versions of those ballets, says his fellow dancer, Fernando Medina-Gallego. Many artistic directors these days like to refurbish the old ballets. They might take Swan Lake and make changes -¦ so it becomes an actualised version, and the purist version is missing from the repertoire of many ballet companies around the world. Our company does them as they were.
Maybe not quite as they were. To perform with the Trocks, the male dancers must perform as ballerinas: squeezed into tutus and en pointe. But is there anything a ballerina can accomplish that a male dancer cannot do?
We are not so clean, not so refined, Morra says with a laugh.
Medina-Gallego agrees. We cannot be elegant, he says. It is difficult to look light, being a male dancer with a muscular body. But that’s one of the things that makes it funny, when you see a butch guy in pointe shoes and looking like a little flower. We can do it, but you will never forget that it’s a butch man, not a ballerina.
As one of the few males at his dance school in Italy, Morra says he always learnt the girls’ roles in addition to his own: inadvertent training for life with the Trocks. On the other hand, Medina-Gallego says he didn’t learn the female roles until joining the company three years ago. He is now famed for his hilarious interpretation of Swan Lake’s Odette.
But there are no designated roles for the dancers of the Trocks. We switch around totally, Medina-Gallego says. There is no such thing as a soloist or a principal dancer in this company. We are all supposed to know every role. If someone is hurt in the middle of a performance some people can jump in to a performance that is not their traditional role. The director keeps switching the places around so we don’t get laid back, or sleepy in our roles.
One might say the Trocks are a company who are truly kept on their toes. (Ouch.) Catch them live and you will see.
The Trocks perform at the State Theatre until 24 March. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster on 1300 136 166 or online at www.ticketmaster7.com.au.