The run of the international production ‘Men In Tutus’ – a clever, affectionate parody of the ballet canon, both classical and contemporary, via male dancers’ humorous female personae – kicks off in South Africa this week: in Johannesburg on April 12 to 14, at the Teatro at Montecasino; with Cape Town to follow from Thursday to Sunday, April 18 to 21, at the Artscape Opera House.
“Male ballerina” is usually a term used in error made by an inexperienced 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.
In ‘Men In Tutus’, audiences will meet (among others):
Nina Minimaximova (performed by Victor Trevino): On her third divorce and the toast of Paris, St Petersburg, Tokyo and Long Island. Nina reigned supreme on the stages of the world’s greatest theatres until her forced retirement by jealous detractors and a public with taste. She now occupies the turbaned, sitting roles made famous by ballerinas of a certain age.
Tamara Chilirojo (Alexandre Alguero Alejos): Young of spirit and fresh like fish. She radiates a sense of naivete with her “Who, me?” countenance and her “Why her?” competitiveness. Detractors have criticised her for still being “green”, but Tamara wants it on record that the condition was long ago cleared up with antibiotics supplied by her Aunt Violet.
Imelda Hardtoes (Carlos Garcia): The former first lady of Philippine dance. Imelda left her homeland under dubious circumstances, but was granted artistic asylum by Les Ballets Eloelle and brings with her a wealth of experience. And 4532 pairs of designer pointe shoes.
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