‘Men In Tutus’ – a clever, affectionate parody of the ballet canon, both classical and contemporary, via male dancers’ humorous female personae – can be seen in South Africa very soon: in Johannesburg on April 12 to 14, at the Teatro at Montecasino; and in Cape Town from April 18 to 21, at the Artscape Opera House.
“Male ballerina” is usually a term used in error made by a rookie arts writer. However, Les Ballets Eloelle (say it aloud and you’ll get the joke), led by founder, Artistic Director and lead dancer Victor Trevino, features – as one of the few all-male comedy ballet companies in the world – a troupe of such dancers: men dancing roles traditionally reserved for women.
The comedy aspect of ‘Men In Tutus’ never undermines either the challenges of performing the complex choreography or the exceptional results, which has made the show so thrilling for audiences.
As Trevino explains: “Men do not traditionally train in pointe shoes. We tend to be heavier, with our weight distributed differently to female dancers. Women generally begin training in dancing on pointe when they are young; about 11 years old, while men are not encouraged to do so, as there’s very little opportunity to use that skill in classical dance.”
Trevino, who began his comedic career with Les Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo, where he performed almost all the female leads in the repertoire as a principal dancer, adds that it is not only the individual proficiency of the dancers that is impressive.
“Learning to work as partners is another challenge,” he notes. “Dancers in any traditional ballet company will appreciate the difficulties here, but when men partner men, there are several adjustments to make. Again, we must take into account our weight and physicality, but we also need to learn how to be supported or lifted as we move.”
‘Men In Tutus’ features dancers from the U.S., Spain, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Australian, Colombia, the Isle of Wight and Japan, underlining the global appeal of ballet, dance and comedy. This ties in with the objectives of Ballet Eloelle, which include: cultivating new audiences for dance through comedy; performing for audiences who may not have access to ballet; and to preserve the integrity and standards of excellence in the ballets they perform so as to educate audiences about the art form.
Of course, whatever the cultural backgrounds and experience of these dancers – who have trained at revered institutions like the New York Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Swedish Ballet, Berlin State Opera Ballet, the English National Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and the Hong Kong Ballet – they are also on stage to entertain.
The cast also includes Victor Trevino as Nina Minimaximova, Alexandre Alguero Alejos as Tamara Chilirojo and Carlos Garcia as Imelda Hardtoes, as well as supporting members Walter Battistini, Ivan Felix, Jimmy Lumba, Jhonatan Mendez, Victor Maguad, Joel Morris (an ex-South African Ballet Theatre star), Ian Ocampo, Eugene Obille, Shaughn Neil Pegoraro, Joseph Phillips, Tetsushi Segawa and Wataru Tokue.
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