All-male troupe adds comic turns to ballet classics
Deflating dance cliches … the New York troupe Les Ballets Eloelle, which is touring its production Men in Pink Tights.
HE CAN laugh about it now but it didn't seem so funny at the time.
Victor Trevino, a resident of New York for 25 years, had arranged to meet me, a first-time Big Apple visitor, at a bar and grill at the corner of 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue. I turned up but he didn't, having gone instead to the intersection one block along at Ninth Avenue. Our mobile phones soon sorted the confusion.
Thankfully, there is no doubt about his ability to navigate his way around the dance floor, where he has dazzled and amused audiences for the best part of three decades.
Trevino heads Les Ballets Eloelle, an all-male New York comedy ballet troupe that has risen from the ashes of the men-in-tutus ensemble Les Ballets Grandiva.
The company might play for laughs but the ensemble includes dancers from such celebrated mainstream companies as the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Berlin State Opera and Hong Kong Ballet.
In the dressing room after the world premiere of Men in Pink Tights, which plays in Sydney from this Sunday, Trevino plucks off his spider-like false lashes, wipes away his make-up and talks about marshalling his United Nations of gentleman dancers.
Faux ballerina names abound (Margot Funtyme, Sylvie Gruyere, Ariel I. Kandee), as do mock hissy fits and overly flamboyant entrances and curtain calls, but classically trained techniques form the bedrock on which the high jinks are built, Trevino says. The dancing and choreography are just as important, if not more so, than the comedy.
Trevino began his performance career with the Florida Ballet but, at 160 centimetres tall and less than 50 kilograms, he realised early that he was unlikely to be lifting a prima ballerina above his head.
Someone suggested that he try modern dance or musical theatre, where his height wouldn't be such a factor. But ballet was his first love, so he found a field where his light frame was a blessing in disguise. In 1986, he joined the famed comedy ballet pioneers Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a troupe of drag dancers parodying Russia's prima ballerinas.
Trevino has been twirling his tutu for laughs while dancing classical female roles ever since. His most outrageous turn is a feather-flying parody of The Dying Swan, Mikhail Fokine's short solo created for Anna Pavlova.
After nine years with the Trocks, Trevino started Les Ballets Grandiva in the mid-1990s and toured Australia with their show Men in Tutus in 2007.
His approach can be compared to that of another Victor, the Danish pianist Victor Borge, who coupled comedy with great classical flair to break down barriers for audiences nervous about ''high art''.
''I am hoping to combine strong dance elements with a lot of fun to entertain audiences and, ultimately, to make people laugh,'' Trevino says. ''I have always seen what I do as an introduction to dance for people who wouldn't necessarily attend a dance performance.''
Since the origins of drag ballet with the Trocks in the 1970s, the genre has increasingly attracted more serious dancers who also like to make people laugh.
''But the more important aspect is the dance,'' Trevino says. ''If you can't do the dance bit, the drag bit is really just a costume.''
Men In Pink Tights is at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on May 6, the Joan Sutherland Entertainment Centre, Penrith, on May 14, Sutherland Entertainment Centre on May 15 and the State Theatre on May 19.
Stephen Bevis travelled to New York as a guest of Les Ballets Eloelle.