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Pointe shoes, tutus and chest hair: Les Ballets Trockadero are back
Seattle Times arts critic
On Thursday night, a different kind of dying swan will grace the stage of Meany Hall. She will wear a classical white tutu (which, alas, may suffer from a bit of molting) and pointe shoes, and will daintily perform her final gasps to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns, as did the great ballerina Anna Pavlova so long ago. She will delicately pirouette, waft her arms upward in swanlike fashion, and wrest tears from the rapt audience.
Oh, and by the way, she's a man.
Yes, the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are back, for three performances at the University of Washington's Meany Hall, beginning Thursday. And those who love ballet should scurry for tickets, because this playful troupe of men in tights combine technical virtuosity with a certain Sarah Bernhardt-ish flair — and the result, on previous Seattle visits, has been an evening of pure pleasure.
Now in its 31st year, the company is unlike any other ballet troupe — partly because of the size of their pointe shoes, partly because of the dancers' elaborate stage identities. Each company member (currently there are 17) performs both as a man and as a woman, and each has developed a stage name and back story for his alter ego. On the Seattle tour, watch for Margeaux Mundeyn, Igor Slowpokin, William Vanilla, Maria Gertrudes Clubfoot — and Ida Nevasayneva, who is scheduled to perform the Dying Swan.
"Ida has been dancing for a very, very long time, probably too long," sighed Trockadero dancer Paul Ghiselin, on the phone from New York. (Yes, he seemed to know Ida quite personally. Make of that what you will.) "But she's never caught off guard when she has to perform the Dying Swan for her adoring fans. When you dance it as much as Ida does, you have to always maintain a certain air of freshness, kind of throw caution to the wind, and allow your impulses to come to the surface, so the audience doesn't feel that they're seeing yet another one of thousands of performances of that terminal fowl."
Ghiselin, a Virginia native who danced with the Ohio Ballet before joining the Trocks (as they're affectionately known) in 1995, says he was drawn to the company because of the opportunity to incorporate acting into his dance career. At 33, he needed to learn a whole new dance language: to move like a female ballerina, on pointe.
For men to dance on pointe, he insists, is much the same as for women.
"Each foot is built to carry the body," he says. "It's all a matter of training, learning how to use the pointe shoe like a tool." Ballet mistress Pamela Pribisco works with new company members to teach them how to strengthen their feet. Now, says Ghiselin, "you still get your bumps and bruises, but it's not as painful as it was in the begin-
For their Seattle appearances, in addition to "The Dying Swan," the Trocks will perform Act II from "Swan Lake" (the swan hunt, complete with swoony prince, evil wizard and a swan who — horrors! — has been known to botch a cue). The program also includes "Go for Barocco," a spoof of George Balanchine's choreography, as well as a new-to-Seattle piece titled "L'Ecole de Ballet" ("Ballet School").
"It's taken from the old [ballet] schools of Russia and France, [where] young students are put into a school and put through the paces," says Ghiselin. "By the end, they're performing a little recital. Very cute, very sweet."
And does Ida Nevasayneva have any messages for her Seattle fans? Only her mantra, which would suit the entire company as well: "Beauty and glamour forever!"
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com
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