Last seen in the UK in 2015, The Trocks (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo), the multi-award winning all-male, comedy drag ballet company, will return to the UK during an eight-week, twelve-venue tour.
For more than 40 years, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (affectionately known as “The Trocks”) have been delighting audiences of all ages at sell-out performances featuring their fabulous sense of fun and their flawless dance. Hailing from New York City, The Trocks are now loved worldwide for their sassy spoofs and hilarious homages to classical ballet and modern dance, where each of the 18 dancers transform into two personas, both male and female. Every performance frivolously froths with tutus and testosterone, blush-pink ballet pumps, fierce fake eyelashes and hyperbolic prima ballerina attitudes; however, what makes this company extraordinarily special is their immaculate dance technique and daring physicality, surpassed only by their unmatchable comic timing.
During their incredible history, The Trocks have performed in over 600 cities in 38 countries. Following their last UK tour in 2015, The Trocks were nominated for an Outstanding Company Award at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (2016, UK) alongside Bolshoi Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet. The 2018 engagement marks the company’s fifteenth visit to the UK and first time in Ireland and follows extensive tours across the USA, Japan and Europe.
The Trocks’ phenomenon moved from stage to screen in Rebels on Pointe, the first-ever feature documentary celebrating the world famous company. Directed by Bobbi Jo Hart, the film is a glorious and insightful glimpse behind the scenes and received critical acclaim and won numerous awards following its release in 2017. The Trocks, including dancers Carlos Hopuy (an alumnus of Cuba’s renowned National Ballet School and four times Gold medal winner at international ballet competitions in Cuba and Japan) and Long Zou, an alumnus of Central Ballet School and former dancer with Singapore Dance Theatre, all turn perceptions of what being a ballerina means on their heads.
YASS Magazine met Alberto Pretto one of the stars of the show and here is the exclusive interview.
The Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo has been the most popular drag ballet company for over 40 years. Why did you decide to rename it to Trocks?
The company was born in 1974 and has been going on ever since and we have a lot of followers and our fans are very dedicated. The Trocks is just a nickname that our fans mostly use, because Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo is a long name and it is difficult to remember. So, intentionally they call us The Trocks. So, to make things easy if you don’t remember the full name, you can just go for The Trocks.
How do you feel about the performance that will take place in London next month?
I am really excited. It is not going to be my first time because I already come to London and been to Peacock Theatre a couple of years ago. I had such a great time there. I love the city, I love the vibes. I am really looking forward to coming back and performing there!
What does this performance mean to you?
It is very important for me, as I am featured in a new role, which is always something exciting, that I had been wanting for a long time. I know that the audience in London is very knowledgeable about the dance world and what our performances represent, so for that reason, it has and will be really good!
Talk to me about the plot a little bit. Is it true that each dancer has 2 personas, a male and a female one?
Every member of the cast has 2 personas; the female and the male dancer. We also have Russian-sounding names for both our personas. Every dancer is supposed to perform during their careers both roles, even though sometimes we perform more as female dancers, because, in the end of the day, it is a drag ballet!
How easy is it to change between one role to another during the show?
It is not really easy, but we try to minimise the set changes to a minimum because we don’t really have all the time to change our make-up and appearance fully, so we try to keep it simple and focus on the wig and the costume. If we have extra time, we adjust more things. Most of the times if we do a show as a female dancer, then it is more likely that we will stay like that for most of the show. It is not easy, but it is a lot of fun. It is part of the theatre illusion.
What is your biggest audience and the target group of The Trocks?
Our audience is very diverse and we have a lot of followers wherever we go. The most affectionate audience is the Japanese audience, because they have been following us for the most time and they have this ritual of giving us gifts to us after the performance when we take the bows. This is quite impressive. I have been a part of the company for more than 7 years and there have been countries where we performed and I had such incredible experiences. The LGBTQ+ community has supported us a lot because everyone can relate to the show in many different ways. However, it is just a dance performance and we want to entertain people and let them have a good time, so we address to everybody. If you want to see a deeper message apart from the obvious entertainment of course you can though!
Do you feel that drag ballet has been unrepresented all these years?
Yes, there are not a lot of companies like ours and drag ballet is not much represented. This is what makes us special, as we are trying to bridge this gap in our industry and we allow different artistry and self-expression. In a traditional ballet company if a boy wants to dance as a ballerina this would not be possible. However, this is where our company comes and gives the chance to everyone to live their dream. I wish there was more media attention towards what we are doing.
What makes this performance special and different?
First of all, the fact that we are all men and we are performing as female dancers is very impressive, as anatomically the body type of a man is quite different compared to the one of a woman, which makes things challenging. The performances provide variety and diversity and are not addressed just to people who are connoisseurs of a specific type of ballet, like all-men ballet, but to everyone. So, for a new-comer it is a great way of approaching the theatre and the dance world without feeling bored at all.
What is the most difficult part of this performance?
The most difficult part is touring constantly. It is hard to be ready all the time to leave home and visit a new destination. Now, it is not as hard as it was in the beginning. Also, you need to find what kind of dancer and comedian you are according to your personality. It took me some time, but I have managed to find the balance between the dancing and the comedy parts and I have understood what kind of comedian I am and what kind of jokes work better for me. The performance needs to be adapted and adjusted to every single dancer as each one has their own way of doing each thing.
Is your industry tough?
Our industry is a bit hard to get in, but I am happy I have found my niche and I feel happy with what I am doing. For someone that starts from scratch it is really important to have a very supportive family behind that can support them emotionally and financially. It is important also that you are a flexible and strong person.
Do you need to be part of the drag scene in order to combine ballet with drag?
Some dancers in our company have never done drag, but this does not mean anything as they can do a great job on stage. Me, personally, I have been a drag queen for 7 years and I bring what I have learnt into the game. Everyone though has been to a drag show once in their lives and we are all big supporters of drag.
Who are your favourite drag queens?
Courtney Act from RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of my favourite ones. Everyone is thinking about the drag queens that have appeared in RuPaul because it is such a big and good platform, but there are so many drag queens that I know and I love so much here in New York that are very beautiful and inspiring performers even though they have not appeared in RuPaul’s Drag Race. I also like a lot Kameron Michaels. I have seen the performance of Kameron many times and I think she is stunning, no matter how he was portrayed in the show.
What has been the most powerful moment you have experienced during your career?
I have had quite a few important experiences during my career. What I enjoy most is performing outdoors open-stage, because you feel the audience so close to you and you sense their energy. That makes you connect with the audience in a different way where there are no distances and boundaries.
What are your future plans?
I am planning to do more drag if that is possible! Recently, I was doing a pageant and I won the title of “Miss Cherry’s 2018”. I would love to do more drag and have my show. At the same time, I want to work more on my dance-wear line of leotards. Apart from that, I want to keep dancing and maybe do some teaching, while performing with The Trocks at the same time. There is a lot going on and as you imagine, I don’t like to be still!
You can follow Alberto here:
A little more about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 by a group of ballet enthusiasts for the purpose of presenting a playful, entertaining view of traditional, classical ballet in parody form and en travesti. The Trocks, as they are affectionately known, first performed in the late-late shows in Off-Off Broadway lofts, and by mid-1975, their loving knowledge of dance, their comic approach, and their commitment to the notion that men can, indeed, dance en pointe without falling flat on their faces, was already garnering attention beyond the Company’s New York home.
Since those beginnings, The Trocks have established themselves as a major dance phenomenon throughout the world – their frenzied annual schedule has included appearances in over 600 cities in 38 countries worldwide since its founding, as well as television appearances and a 2017 feature documentary, Rebels on Pointe.
Over the years, The Trocks have garnered numerous awards, including: Best Classical Repertoire at the prestigious Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (UK, 2007); a Theatrical Managers’ Association Award, now UK Theatre Awards, (UK, 2006) for Achievement in Dance; the Positano Award (Italy, 2006) for Excellence in Dance; and following their last UK tour in 2015, The Trocks were nominated for an Outstanding Company Award at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (2016, UK) alongside Bolshoi Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet.
The original concept of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has not changed. It is a company of professional male dancers performing the full range of the classical ballet and modern dance repertoire. The comedy is achieved by incorporating and exaggerating the foibles, accidents, and underlying incongruities of serious dance. For the future, there are plans for new works; new cities, states and countries to perform in; and for the continuation of The Trocks’ original purpose: to bring the pleasure of dance to the widest possible audience. They will, as they have done for more than forty-four years, “Keep on Trockin’.”
A little more about Dance Consortium
Dance Consortium is a group of 19 large scale UK venues with a shared passion for engaging people with the best contemporary dance from across the world. Since its formation in 2000 Dance Consortium has presented 41 tours by 22 different companies from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, France, The Netherlands, Taiwan, Israel and the USA. Their performances and education activities have been experienced by hundreds of thousands of people across all parts of the UK. Dance Consortium receives investment as a national portfolio organisation of Arts Council England.
Dance Consortium members: Grand Opera House Belfast; Birmingham Hippodrome; Alhambra Theatre Bradford; Brighton Dome; Marlowe Theatre Canterbury; Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff; Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin; Festival Theatre Edinburgh; Curve Theatre Leicester; Sadler’s Wells London; Milton Keynes Theatre; Theatre Royal Newcastle; Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham with Dance 4; Theatre Royal Plymouth; The Lowry Salford; The Mayflower, Southampton; New Victoria Theatre, Woking; Hull, New Theatre; Norwich Theatre Royal. Buxton Opera House (Guest Member 2018/19), Eden Court Theatre Inverness (Guest Member 2018/19).
During the UK and Ireland tour, The Trocks will perform signature pieces from ballet classics including Esmerelda, Paquita, Raymonda’s Wedding, Swan Lake Act II, Les Sylphides and La Trovatiara. The lively Pas de Six from August Bournonville’s Napoli receives its UK PREMIERE and will delight with the intricate footwork, crystalline clarity and lightness of movement synonymous with the 19th Century Danish choreographer. The Little Humpback Horse proved an instant hit with the audiences of Imperial Russia and in the company’s version dancers swimmingly (and hopefully without drowning!) deliver divertissements from the ballet’s underwater scene. Two exciting all-time favourites added to The Trocks’ repertoire, of impeccable attention to their classicism and a riotous sense of humour that will charm audiences in 2018. For more information about the London performances you can check the following website: www.peacocktheatre.com
*all images are property of Sascha Vaughan and Zoran Jelenic Photography