Fun and dames on stage
Barry C Chung
What do Dame Alicia Markova, Cyd Charisse, Lycette Darsonval and Margot Fonteyn have in common? They are all Russian or French stage names adopted by non-Russian and non-French ballet dancers at a time when the two nations were at the centre of the ballet world.
'In the 1930s to the 1960s, to be considered a good dancer you had to have been Russian or at least have a French [or Russian] name,' Tory Dobrin, artistic director of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, told Young Post. 'Many Americans, Canadians and Europeans changed their names.'
Unfortunately, however elegant, slender and graceful these leading ladies were, none of them would have made it to the Trockadero ballet troupe.
This is because the Trocks, as the troupe is known, is a parody of classical ballet comprising an all-male ensemble dressed as women.
But don't let the drag and farcical elements fool you into thinking that it's all about laughs. There's dance, too.
Many of the pieces require a knowledge of classical ballet, where technique is a major factor. Every cast member has a background in dance.
At the turn of the 20th century, Ballets Russes, a Russian company headed by Sergei Diaghilev, brought its brand of ballet to Western Europe. Diaghilev's death in 1929 signalled the end for the company. Members split and created their own troupes, most notably Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and eventually popularised ballet across the world.
Ballet Trockadero was founded in New York in 1974. 'It was founded by people who wanted to copy or make fun in a fun way - not in a criticising way - of these Ballet Russes companies,' explains Dobrin, who originally joined the company as a dancer in 1980. 'So it was called Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.'
The Trocks quickly gained popularity, first in the US, then all over the world, for their unique shows. Many of the laughs come from seeing big, burly, often hairy, men in tutus prancing around the stage on their toes.
However, those who don't approve of men dressing up as women and those who feel the troupe lowers the tone of classical ballet are sometimes outraged.
But most people love the Trocks. They have performed in 30 countries, and will be in Hong Kong next week.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts from May 15-20