Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 12:00 PM
Sandusky has a lot going for it, including spectacles known as Cedar Point and Lake Erie. But the city isn't usually associated with professional dance.
That will change this week, at least temporarily, when River North Chicago Dance Company makes a stop to hold workshops in local schools and perform Friday for 700 students and on Saturday for other curious citizens at the Sandusky State Theatre.
The troupe's residency is more › part of Dance Across America's Heartland Project, a collaboration among the presenting organizations DanceCleveland, Dance Affiliates (Philadelphia) and Dance St. Louis.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which is based in New York, provided a $120,000 grant to help the presenters take River North to nearby communities. In addition to Sandusky, the company is appearing in York, Pa., and Rolla, Mo.
Each of the presenters raised considerable funds for the project, which has a total cost of $327,000. The Sandusky State Theatre received $30,000 from the Duke foundation and $5,000 from the New England Foundation for the Arts, which also gave River North $40,000 to support the residencies.
"It's a fantastic opportunity," said Thomas Kazmierczak, executive director of the Sandusky State Theatre. "It will expand our horizons, expand the audience base and bring new works of art to our theater."
Aside from River North, dance only takes to the stage of the 1,500-seat Sandusky theater -- which opened in 1928 as a movie and vaudeville house -- when local dance studios present recitals and the touring Moscow Ballet performs "The Nutcracker."
Pamela Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, said the project came about as a result of the three presenting organizations "bemoaning the fact that so few presenters include dance on their series."
"They told us they felt dance was too hard to present -- and too expensive," said Young. "Taking dance to places is really important. It builds audiences for dance on a regional level and builds tour opportunities for dance companies."
Those companies must apply for the project, be willing to travel to the sites supported by the presenters and agree to work with local schools.
The project includes what Young calls a "tool box," an online resource for dance presenters that should be accessible by fall on the website of Dance/USA (danceusa.org).
For the Sandusky piece of the dance pie, the theater is providing space, staff, hospitality and marketing. Kazmierczak said the theater has worked with Arts Midwest, a Minneapolis-based organization that books international performing artists throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
In recent seasons, the Sandusky theater teamed with Arts Midwest to present musical ensembles from Japan, Israel, China and Quebec. The theater is occupied the rest of the year with theater events, concerts, movies and art shows, for a total of up to 60 shows. Ticket sales account for about 40 percent of the annual budget.
Kazmierczak said his theater's participation in the dance project was born during a New York conference for presenting theaters at which he met a representative from River North. She told him the project aimed to take dance into theaters that don't normally offer it.
"That's us," said Kazmierczak.
Sunday, January 30th, 2011 12:00 PM
A lot of things go wrong during a performance by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. But they happen at just the right moments.
With the impeccable timing, madcap sensibility and disciplined elegance that long have been their hallmarks, the male dancers known as the Trocks are frolicsome guides to the quirks that inhabit classical ballet and modern dance. They don't make fun of these genres. They have fun with more › them while maintaining loyalty to the source.
The Trocks brought tutus and tights to Cleveland for the first time in several decades Saturday at the Ohio Theatre under the auspices of Cuyahoga Community College and DanceCleveland. From the time an announcer with a theek Russian accent introduced the program to the final whimsical curtain call (Celtic dance a la Russe), the Trocks were masters of terpsichorean mirth.
At Saturday's performance, they shared distinctive spoofs of classic works and legendary choreographers, mixing matters of gender with assured dancing that must be the envy of more than a few "serious" ballet companies.
The corps de ballet in Act II of "Swan Lake," for instance, looked buoyant and even giddy en pointe, even if one member was so enthusiastic that she/he often fell out of step (or simply crashed to the floor). As Odette, Olga Supphozova (female nom de plume for the terrific Robert Carter) was a radiant, ornery presence – at turns graceful and earthbound, her technical feats precise and delightfully self-serving.
In "Patterns of Space," a work paying tribute to the late Merce Cunningham, three dancers dressed in brightly colored unitards engage in abstract configurations that have nothing to do with the music. And it is the bizarre and hilarious music that rules here, especially as played on kitchen utensils, paper bags, kazoos and other paraphernalia by the oh-so-avante-garde Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Mora) and Yuri Smirnov (the versatile Carter).
Four legendary ballerinas are celebrated in "Le Grand Pas de Quatre," which the Trocks treat as a competition of fluttering eyelashes, logistical miscalculations and demented pratfalls. In their solos and ensemble duties, the dancers portraying Lucille Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Marie Taglioni showed keen command of romantic style even as they contributed addled gestures that suggested their need to see the nearest shrink.
One of the Trocks' most enduring pieces is "The Dying Swan," which was performed on this occasion by Katerina Bychkova (Joshua Grant) with a blend of Amazonian poise and goofball vulnerability. This swan has a big problem, aside from imminent demise: her tutu is molting with alarming speed. Bychkova managed to fend off feathery disaster until she slid (literally) to the ground and waved a fond farewell.
For sheer, fanciful pageantry, there was "Raymonda's Wedding," a divertissement based on choreography by Marius Petipa, which found the Trocks cavorting with vivacious splendor. Carter's impressive whiplash turns were but delectable morsels in this banquet of winsome and macho dance drollery.
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Sunday, January 30th, 2011 11:00 AM
Men en pointe delight audience at Ohio Theatre
A sold out, standing room only audience displayed abandoned delight, complete with "bravos" and much applause, at the Sat 1/29 performance of LES BALLETS TROCKADERO de MONTE CARLO, lovingly called The Trocks by their many admirers.
What was all the shouting about? On the surface, men were dancing in tutus, en pointe, many portraying roles such as the Swan in SWAN LAKE, traditionally reserved more › for women. Sound like a device to get people into the theatre? It is. But these are not guys who just spoof and do pratfalls. This is an international troupe of well-trained ballet dancers who have added to the usual male role in ballet of being partners who carry the females around, are given a few minutes of solo circle leaps and a few bravado movements. They are ballet dancers who have wonderful senses of comic timing and an ingenious choreographer. This is the company that the New York Times dance reviewer terms, "Partly Goofy, Part Glorious, All Man." I might add, "Totally audience pleasing."
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male ballet corps which parodies the conventions and clichés of romantic and classical ballet. It has been around since 1974 and has toured the world to great accolades.
The troupe, which last appeared in the area around fifteen years ago, opened their program with SWAN LAKE, ACT II, danced to the music of Tchaikovsky. This, their signature piece, tells the story of a beautiful princess, turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer, who is saved by the love of a prince. It's probably the world's best known ballet. But, if you haven't seen the Trocks' version, you haven't seen SWAN LAKE. Consisting of beautiful toe work, fine partnering, glorious costumes, a princess with facial stubble, pratfalls and comic interactions between the dancers, the audience transitioned between "bravos" and hysterics.
PATTERNS IN SPACE was a "post modern dance movement essay" in which three mismatched dancers tried their best to hold the audience's attention with creative movements, while competing for attention with two nerdy "musicians" who played the underscoring with paper bags, kazoos, bubble wrap, and pots and pans. It was Spike Jones meets classic dance, with Jones, in the form of "musicians" Lariska Dumbchenko and Yuri Smirnov winning. (All of the dancers have "Russian" as well as their traditional names. The Soviet designators are all plays on words, such as Legupski, Paranova, Thickenthighya, Enimenimynimova and Ida Nevasayneva.)
LE GRAND PAS DE QUATRE found four dancers in constant competition to upstage each other. Danced completely en pointe, the ability of dancers was only eclipsed by their ability to get outlandish attention.
A quick version of THE DYING SWAN, complete with a molting bird who kept losing its feathers while displaying the pangs of death, made the death more fun than tragic. Those who have seen the Academy Award nominated movie THE BLACK SWAN could only shake their heads and realize what a beautiful piece this could be when danced correctly. Beautiful, but not as much fun.
RAYMONDA'S WEDDING was a "traditionally confusing divertissement in two scenes," highlighted by a plot which "loses something in translation." Danced in classic ballet form, though the uneven story line "has baffled audiences since its premiere in 1898," it was visually attractive and, as most of the program, filled with wonderful laugh sequences. The "women" were all taller than their partners, causing visual illusions of tiny men lifting gigantic women. (Many of the "females" were well over 6 and a half feet tall in their pointe shoes.)
Capsule judgment: "This was the whole package," "What fun," "My goodness, they are really good dancers," and "I hope we don't have to wait another fifteen years to get them back!" These were comments made by the delighted dance concert-goers after the performance of LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO. I definitely agree!
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Friday, January 28th, 2011 12:00 PM
All-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo brings its ballet parodies to PlayHouse Square
And you think Natalie Portman has it rough in "Black Swan"?
What about the dauntless dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who must endure the agonies of pointe shoes, wear tight tutus and make sure their eyelashes don't fall off midspin?
Hold the pirouettes. Doesn't Portman experience the same rigors in Darren Aronofsky's whacked-out movie? Yes, more › but she's very obviously a woman. The Trocks, as the dancers in the New York troupe are known, always have been champions of testosterone.
As will be readily apparent when the celebrated male troupe makes its first stop in Cleveland in several decades for a program of dance favorites with more than a few twists.
The performance Saturday at the Ohio Theatre, a presentation of DanceCleveland and Cuyahoga Community College, is likely to enlighten even as it convulses. The Trockadero's affectionate and often uproarious parodies of ballet and modern dance are offered by performers thoroughly versed in the art.
"A lot of people think it's a big drag show, and it really isn't," says Trockadero dancer Paul Ghiselin, the company's ballet master and a former member of Ohio Ballet. "We are doing the wigs and eyelashes and pretty makeup. But it's more about dancing.
"Everybody in the company is a dancer first. We're not trying to fool anybody that we're being like women. Some of the guys are more dainty. But you'll see a chestful of hair popping out of the tutus."
Ghiselin is on a roll.
"And men have a very different power just because of the nature of the male body. Our lines aren't as light as women's. We've got chunkier legs and chunkier torsos, so there's an athleticism that's interesting. The humor comes from the inherent nature of men trying to do what women do."
Along these lines, it's not uncommon for a Trocks pas de deux to feature a "dainty" danseur trying to lift a tall, virile-looking ballerina -- or mallerina, as this unusual species has been called.
Or to find Ghiselin, in dazzling tutu, performing his signature role, "The Dying Swan," with white feathers flying every which way.
"My tutu has a life all its own," he says. "If that tutu could talk! It has to be stuffed every night. You name it, it's happened. I inhaled [a feather] once. I've had to spit them out in the middle. They get caught in my eyelashes."
Ghiselin, 49, was a 14-year member of Ohio Ballet when he auditioned in 1995 for the Trockadero company, which was founded in 1974 by a group of ballet enthusiasts who fashioned the name after the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Last year, the Trocks gave more than 130 performances throughout the United States and abroad.
Upon taking his Trockadero audition, sitting in on company class and watching rehearsal, Ghiselin was "blown away" by the level of the dancers, including their mastery of the grand Russian style, and the camaraderie.
Ghiselin, who was admired for his vivacious performances with Ohio Ballet, approached its artistic director, Heinz Poll, with trepidation when he decided to become a Trock.
"Heinz's eyes just lit up, and he said, 'Paul, that would be perfect for you,' " says Ghiselin. "I was always the class clown. He liked to give me character-type roles. It was actually a pretty good transition."
Before leaving Ohio Ballet, Ghiselin received tips on dancing en pointe from the company's female members.
"It's like learning how to dance all over again," says Ghiselin, who hails from Virginia. "Women practice to dance en pointe, so they learn to dance with pointe shoes. Men are trying to dance without them. It took me a year before I felt like I knew what I was doing, or was at least comfortable with what I was doing."
Tory Dobrin, the Trockadero's artistic director, had a similar, if less painful, experience when he joined the company in 1980. The Los Angeles native danced with Dallas Ballet before moving to New York, where he first performed with Lee Theodore's American Dance Machine and at Radio City Music Hall.
Dobrin had taken pointe classes in Dallas, so he wasn't surprised by the sensation of donning the shoes Trockadero-style.
"It wasn't really an issue," he says. "It only becomes an issue when you have to be in pointe shoes for hours on end."
But pointe shoes are only one aspect of the company's love affair with ballet. The Trocks have more than 50 works in their repertoire, many of them staples of classical and romantic ballet, such as "Nutcracker," "Don Quixote" and "Gaite Parisienne."
The dancers always begin with the original choreography, if available, which then is tweaked to add the idiosyncrasies for which the Trocks are so feted.
Setting the original choreography is "important because it gives it a kind of legitimacy and makes it interesting for us as dancers," says Dobrin. "We try to keep the rehearsal process relaxed. The guys in Trockadero tend to be funny. Things unfold as we shape the material."
The guys in tights and tutus are listed in the program with outlandish male and female names, mostly in Russian, concocted largely by Dobrin. They include -- pronounce them slowly -- Ida Nevasayneva (Ghiselin's female guise; his male incarnation is Velour Pilleaux), Nina Enimenimynimova, Innokenti Smoktumuchsky and, the newest, Marina Plezegetovstageskaya.
The last is a tribute to Maya Plisetskaya, the great Russian dancer who was a longtime principal with the Bolshoi Ballet. Plisetskaya has seen the Trocks twice at gala events, once in Italy featuring Ghiselin as "The Dying Swan," the Russian ballerina's most renowned solo.
"She came after the show and said, 'I absolutely adore what you do,' " says Ghiselin. "She gave me a big hug, and she was fabulous."
Adds Dobrin: "She has a sense of humor, so that's nice. Some people don't."
Still, the Trocks stand out well beyond balletic high jinks.
"A show of nothing but making fun of dance gets tedious," Ghiselin says. "You need to balance that with good dancing if you're going to be taken seriously. We take company class, a lot of training, go to the gym and rehearse these classics like anybody else -- except it's man-on-man ballet."
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Friday, January 28th, 2011 10:00 AM
See guys in tutus
January 26, 2011
By Kerry Clawson
Akron Beacon Journal
For decades, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo have made an art form of turning classical ballet on its end with its all-male gender-bending performances.
Understandably, men in tutus never cease to be funny. In this company, formed in 1974, male dancers play all the roles - both male and female - in their loving spoofs of story ballets. That means men more › dance en pointe as sylphs, princesses, water sprites and more.
Paul Ghiselin, formerly of the Ohio Ballet, is ballet master and performs as Ida Nevasayneva in Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square Saturday, Jan. 29.
The joke would be on the Trocks, though, if they didn't dance as proficiently as females in those roles. According to Paul Ghiselin, a former Ohio Ballet member in his 15th year with the Trockaderos, the bar has been raised very high over the years as far as technical requirements for troupe members.
This is not a group that totters around on tippy toe and fumbles through the female parts. The New York Times described the Trocks' recent Christmas program as "mallerina glory" with "equal measures of buffoonery and technical aptitude."
The New York-based company, which has gained fans across the world for both its humor and technical mastery, will give one performance at 8 p.m. Saturday at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre. Ghiselin, the current ballet master who still dances as Ida Nevasayneva, won't be performing this weekend. Artistic director Tory Dobrin won't be in Cleveland so Ghiselin will be busy with his ballet master duties with the 16-member company.
The troupe doesn't try to ham it up. The humor flows naturally from the incongruities of serious dance, Ghiselin said.
"We kind of take that refinement and push it a little bit more," he said. "If you see a big man with hairy armpits and chest hair busting out of a tutu, just the look of that is funny," he said. "The batting of eyelashes is an amazing tool."
"The incongruities of ballet are hysterical," Ghiselin continued, giving the example of Swan Lake: "Who's gonna fall in love with a bird?"
Their brand of humor and dance talent has earned the Trocks a cult following in Japan, where they perform for months at a time each year. The Japanese have formed a Trocks fan club, and multiple generations of families attend their performances.
"The Japanese love ballet, first of all, and they love the Trocks. They absolutely adore the Trocks," Ghiselin said. "Our audience is packed with women."
He's been the Trocks' dance master for five years, which requires him to know every ballet in the repertoire in order to teach it to new dancers. He also is responsible for restaging repertoire being brought back into the company.
Ghiselin joined the Trockaderos at age 33, just as he thought his dance career would soon be winding down. He said dancers who join the all-male troupe tend to be on the fringe of the ballet world, often the class clowns.
"Learning to dance en pointe was like learning to dance all over again," he said. "I had to go take little ballerina classes," namely pointe classes with Pam Pribisco, formerly of the Cleveland San Jose Ballet.
"It was sort of like it was meant to be. The repertory opened up for me," said Ghiselin, who quickly began dancing lead roles.
Working with the late Heinz Poll for 13 years with the contemporary Ohio Ballet served him well in his transition to both classical story ballets and the Trocks' work in modern dance, Ghiselin said: "I had a discipline of understanding music and athleticism rather than just posing and looking pretty."
So how long does it take for the dancers to don their wigs, tiaras, tutus, pointe shoes, makeup and false eyelashes? Ghiselin said they're given only one hour to get ready, part of the life of a disciplined dancer.
"You can really get overindulgent," Ghiselin said of focusing too much on costuming and makeup.
The Trockaderos' program is designed to entertain both novices and those knowledgeable about ballet. Ghiselin said the company makes the story lines very basic, so knowing the ballets ahead of time isn't required.
"I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, 'I've never been to a ballet before but I'm so glad I came to this.' "
In Cleveland, they'll perform Patterns in Space, with choreography after Merce Cunningham, a postmodern work in which Ghiselin said two onstage musicians totally upstage the dancers. Other pieces will be the Trocks' signature work, Swan Lake Act II, and Le Grand Pas de Quatre, in which four grand ballerinas of the late 19th century fight for supremacy. Finally, the men will create nuptials onstage with Raymonda's Wedding, with choreography after Petipa.
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo