While their corsets slip just enough to reveal their overtly masculine chests, the ladies of Les Ballets Trokadero Monte Carlo have never looked better.
Glamorous athleticism and trademark pageantry aside, its no wonder the “Trocks” have been packing theatres since the 1970’s. A hybrid of classical ballet and modern dance with a tongue and cheek sensibility, their performances literally turn gender upside down. Never straying from its original concept, the company continues to tour the world celebrating 40 years of bringing pointe to the stage – and maybe just a bit more padding than your average ballerina.
This week Les Ballets Trokadero Monte Carlo returns to Toronto, where audiences at the Winter Garden Theatre will marvel at these gals for a short two-night engagement.
I was lucky to chat with Italian trained dancer Raffaele Morra, A faithful member of the company since 2001. We talked dance, Rupaul’s Drag Race and why he loves Toronto audiences.
What can one expect from this show as opposed to the traditional ballet form?
R: An unforgettable experience. I think the Trocks bring back the feelings people might have experienced when they first saw ballet. They do not come to see “Swan Lake” but they come to see something unexpected, even if they have seen the Trocks before. The comedy, the freshness, the technical level, the professionalism and the elegance of the show make it a real treat.
Is there a different set of challenges for the male dancers playing the female role?
R: Yes. Men are usually trained to jump and turn more, as well as be powerful and strong. Their solos are choreographed with those skills in mind. Ballerinas are required to be more precise, detailed, light and effortless. As Trocks, we are required to learn both ways of dancing (though sometime we are not really effortless or delicate looking…and that’s part of what makes it fun).
Pointe work is not too difficult to achieve for a male dancer if he has excellent ballet training…but he will need some time to acquire the finesse of a ballerina.
With “Rupaul’s Drag Race” reviving a popular interest in drag, have you attracted a new audience to the show?
As men dressed as ballerinas, we have always attracted drag lovers, since we are, after all, a drag show. Rupaul’s Drag Race has not only revived a popular interest in drag, it has also helped people accept it as a way to entertain, so there are more people attending our shows with a more open mind about drag.
While this new popularity of drag has helped us, we have always attracted people outside of the drag scene as well. Because there is nothing outrageous – no sexual innuendos, and because of the professional level and the comedy aspect, we have also attracted families with kids.
This isn’t the first time the company has performed in Toronto, what do you love about Toronto audiences?
The warmth of the audience in such cold weather! We have always visited Toronto during the coldest days of the year, and the wonderful audience has always welcomed us with warmth and cheer.
We always try to play with the audience’s reaction; we try to understand what they like and play on that. Toronto is one of those places where is easy for us to understand what people like and go with it.