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Davis, California

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A hilarious night at the ballet? Believe it

Watch out, prima ballerinas: The men of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are in town.

The much-loved, all-male ballet company will perform at the Mondavi Center on February 14 at 7 p.m., presenting their one-of-a-kind combination of comedy and classical ballet.

“It’s a comedy show that has dance in it, or a dance show that has comedy in it,” said Trockadero artistic director Tory Dobrin.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 in New York City, where they quickly achieved critical success for their unique take on classical ballet. The all-male company of highly trained ballet dancers performs traditional ballet pieces, taking on roles traditionally played by women in full drag. The result is a highly exaggerated and comedic, yet expertly danced, parody of the norms of traditional ballet.

“[The founding dancers] were also actors, and I think they did this because they just wanted to have some fun,” Dobrin said. “It became a cult item in the West Village of Manhattan. They put on midnight shows and were selling out weekend after weekend, and it just took off from there.”

Jeremy Ganter, Mondavi Center Director of Programming, said he was excited to bring Trockadero to UC Davis after seeing the company in a previous performance.

“It’s fun and they’re really good at what they do,” Ganter said. “The opportunity to book them on Valentine’s Day was too good to pass up.”

The Trocks, as they are affectionately known, have toured all over the world, including the United Kingdom, France, Thailand and across the United States. Because of their widespread popularity and endurance over the last 35 years, Dobrin said audiences understand the company’s point of view and appreciate its unconventional style.

“Our company’s been around for 35 years and been to 500 cities all over the world, so we’re pretty well-known in the dance world,” he said. “We’re pretty well accepted for what we do.”

Davide Marongiu has been a member of Trockadero since 2005. He said he was drawn to the opportunity to dance on pointe while exercising his comedic personality.

“Even the first day when I auditioned, I felt like I was meant to be in this company. It was so refreshing,” said Marongiu, who trained at the English National Ballet School and the American Ballet Theater School.

“You spend so much time training and trying to get as good as possible that you get a little sick of the regular ballet world. Everybody takes it so seriously,” he said.

Although some first-time audience members may not quite know what to expect at a Ballets Trockadero show, they are often quickly drawn in by the comedy and energy of the dancers. Marongiu said the company’s aim is to parody classical ballet, not to make fun of it.

“The recipe is a fusion of good ballet technique, and the real parody spirit. Let the comments on the piece happen by themselves. And the audience is transported,” he said.

At Sunday’s show, the Trocks will perform a satire of ballet traditions though La Vivandiere, a 1844 Russian ballet.

“It’s amazing,” Marongiu said of La Vivandiere. “La Vivandiere, the main character, is a huge girl and she gets partnered with a really teeny-tiny little boy. Just performing the steps alone with this disproportionate couple is enough for comedy.”

Also on the program is Paquita, a Russian classic, and the Trockadero signature piece, Swan Lake Act II.

“Hopefully the audience knows what they’re in for, but if not they’re in for the shock of their life,” Ganter said. “It’s quite a spectacle. They’re charming, funny, and they have the audience in the palm of their hand.”

Lyia Jalao, sophomore international relations major, said the concept of Les Ballets Trockadero offered the chance to see ballet, an often female art form, in a whole new way.

“I would consider ballerinas athletes, and anyone can be an athlete,” Jalao said. “[Les Ballets Trockadero] would be definitely worth seeing, simply because it’s different, in a fashion that’s usually female-dominated.”

Marongiu said he has fun at every performance, and never grows tired of watching his fellow dancers ham it up onstage.

“Even when I had the chance to sit in the audience, I laughed the entire show,” he said. “And when I sit in the wings and watch my colleagues dance, I enjoy myself every day.”

ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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