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
Friday, January 14th, 2011 12:00 PM
The Trocks: Ballet That Doesn't Take Itself Seriously
Written by Brian Patrick Thornton
Friday, 14 January 2011 00:37
On Saturday, Jan. 29, the best drag show in Cleveland won't be on the stage at Bounce. Rather, it will be in PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre.
And it won't be some queen from Lorain lip-synching to the latest Britney. Instead, it will be a corps of highly trained dancers, performing more › the original choreography of some of the greatest ballet and modern dancers.
Oh, and you won't need to tip them. So leave your moist and wrinkled singles at home and prepare for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the acclaimed New York-based troupe that's arriving for one night courtesy of DanceCleveland.
We chatted with Balletmaster Paul Ghiselin about this all-gay comedy dance company.
Ghiselin, hailing currently from Bushwick, Brooklyn, began his dance career right here in the Rustbelt with Akron's Ohio Ballet. But 15 years ago he auditioned for Trockadero, where he's been ever since.
Today, as balletmaster, "I'm a bit older to be doing the hard-hitting stuff," he says. "And my responsibilities with the company are training the new dancers, teaching them the [repertory]."
That repertory involves a serious devotion to making audiences laugh.
"We parody, we satire ballet. We kind of model ourselves after a rusty old ballet touring company from Russia," Ghiselin says. "All of the guys have two alter egos: one female, one male. We have these made-up names. My stage name as the female is Ida Nevasayneva."
In lambasting the classics, the company performs the real choreography - Swan Lake "with a twist," for example. The men, as women, are on point. And they hire authentic Russian ballerinas as coaches.
When Ghiselin began in '95, it took him almost a year to adapt to the difficult task of dancing on his toes. Today, "the dancers come quite well-trained," he says. "It's not like in the old days when male dancers couldn't train on point."
* * *
"The Trocks" arrived in 1974, rising out of the 1969 Stonewall riots and a general drag movement that swept New York, Ghiselin says. Men playing women's roles in Greek tragedies in loft spaces so far off the Great White Way, "I can't even call it Off-Broadway," he says. "It was off-off-off-Broadway And that was the beginning of Trockadero. And now we're performing in the best theaters in the world. This past year we did 136 performances."
And are all of the performers gay?
"Well, I don't want to out anybody, but yes," he says with a lilt. "We have had straight men in the company, but they don't last long."
Why is that? "I just don't think it's a thing that a straight man gets into," Ghiselin says. "Putting on the point shoes every day. Putting on eyelashes every day. Having to get into eyelashes and tiaras It's just not a straight man's aesthetic."
Yet the ballet master is quick to point out that it takes a tough man to do the difficult job of dancing with Trockadero.
"The guys in this company are very into what they do," he says. "They care about their dancing. All of them do a lot of homework. They watch the ballerinas. They go to concerts. So you have a group who are very into what they do They're very serious about making fun of it."
For the Jan. 29 engagement, the company is bringing its most recent New York performance.
The evening starts with the second act of Swan Lake, "a send up of the traditional. It's based on the Royal Ballet of London's choreography, which you really don't see any more. But it was restaged 40 years ago, when the company first started. It's based on the classical. It's a lot of fun; a lot of humor is built into it."
That's followed by Patterns in Space, based on choreographer Merce Cunningham's work. And the evening concludes with Raymondo's Wedding, "which is a very Imperial Russian piece. The choreography is very grand," Ghiselin says.
And expect to laugh. Trockadero's audience crosses all categories, he says. There will be your standard dance fans, but also those who normally wouldn't go to see dance. The usual reaction?
"They'll say we've ruined Swan Lake for them because [now] they'll see it and laugh."
Be prepared to be ruined.
Thursday, December 9th, 2010 12:00 PM
This holiday season, share the thrill of live dance with DANCECleveland's "Just Duet" package! Don't miss your chance to experience two mesmerizing performances for one incredible price. See both RIOULT on April 2nd and Parsons Dance with East Village Opera Company on June 11th at PlayhouseSquare at the "Just Duet" rate and save!
Start with the sensual, articulate and exquisitely musical works of Pascal Rioult, including signature pieces, Bolero and Wien more › plus a new dance set to music by Bach. Add to that the most ambitious production in the history of David Parson's company. Titled Remember Me, this high-energy mix of contemporary American dance, opera and rock combines the athleticism of Parsons with an exhilarating live performance by the East Village Opera Company.
Treat yourself or someone else to this marvelous dance package from DANCECleveland. "Just Duet" subscriptions start at only $60 and can be purchased via phone at 216.991.9000 or click here.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 12:00 PM
Fly: Five First Ladies of Dance @ Oberlin
Not only did the Five First Ladies of Dance fly, they also swept audience members right off their feet during the Fri 12/3 sold out performance at Hall Auditorium in Oberlin.
Sponsored by Dance Cleveland and Oberlin College, the performance featured five legendary dancers/choreographers who had hundreds of eyes and ears glued to their every movement and breath. We followed their decisive footwork more › around the stage. We raised our vision up and down watching each body bend and diagonal pose. Drawn in by the dancers' erect stature, willowy arms, flickering fingers, and expressive turns of their heads, messages were conveyed telling their dance stories.
Germaine Acogny, Carmen de Lavallade, Dianne McIntyre, Bebe Miller, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, African and African-American women, mature women all over 60 years of age, danced solo their signature pieces. These ladies already have significant careers demonstrating accomplishment and skill in performing, teaching, and creating dance work. But tonight, they went further exhibiting an exciting array of dance styles and techniques in the foreground while dramatic lighting, music, staging, spoken words, costumes, and video played in the background enhancing the total production.
Bebe Miller opened the show dancing her choreography of "Rain." Looking dramatic in her deep red dress, she moved slowly and quietly, seemingly heavy with thought. First dancing away from a large rectangular grass-like shag rug (maybe a grave site), she grew in confidence to dance closer to this symbolism. Miller expressed her story though dance, gaining momentum, to finally owning the stage at the conclusion. Since 2000, she has taught dance at the Ohio State University.
Germaine Acogny performed "Songbook Yaakaar (Facing Up to Hope)." Dressed in black knit with a black feather boa draped around her neck, she brought the audience into her performance. She began by entering from the lobby and walking down the aisles toward the stage chanting, "We need more women presidents in the world! Yes we can!" A strong presence, she encouraged the audience to join in repeating these words. Acogny is the founder and director of the International Centre for Traditional and Contemporary African Dances based in Dakar, Senegal.
Remarkably, Dianne McIntyre's feet never stopped moving in the next dance, "If You Don't Know " George Caldwell, formally dressed in a white suit, accompanied her on stage playing background music on a black baby grand piano. McIntyre, a native Clevelander, set her stage well a study in black and white along with a study in lines. Her twining arms mirrored the folds of her soft white dress. She is a 2007 John S. Guggenheim Fellow for Choreography, a three-time Bessie award-winner, a recipient of an AUDELCO award (NY Black Theatre), AUDELCO Pioneer award, Helen Hayes award (DC theatre) and four Helen Hayes nominations.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar danced "Bring 'Em Home" to spirited New Orleans music using a small white cloth as her only prop. Waving the white flag, she first appeared to be surrendering, but by the end of the performance, she conveyed positive strength and commitment. This dance is part of Zollar's effort to re-build the cultural life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the city in 2005. She founded her dance company Urban Bush Women over 20 years ago with the goal of bringing women-oriented perspectives in front of audiences through dance.
Carmen de Lavallade performed the final solo dance of the evening, "The Creation." Her husband, Geoffrey Holder, is the choreographer. Poised in a full length flowing red dress, Lavallade gave us her compelling voice reciting the narrative of creation while acting out the story. We were with her every step of the way.
Fly: Five First Ladies of Dance, in its second year of touring, created a memorable evening for audience members. Hats off to the ladies for being so accessible at Oberlin teaching Master dance classes and being available at Q&A sessions. You Go Girls!! Bravo!!