BWW Interview: Tory Dobrin of TESTOSTERONE AND TUTUS at Overture Center
Overture Center welcomes Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, also known as The TROCKS, to Overture Hall for one night only on Friday, February 24 at 8 p.m. The program will include Le Lac Des Cygnes, Pas de Six from Esmeralda and Don Quixote.
I had the pleasure of speaking the Dance Company's Artistic Director, Tory Dobrin, this morning, and what an eye-opening conversation it was! After finishing our chat, he agreed to allow me to share some of the highlights with you.
As someone who has never been to the ballet what can audience members like me expect?
This is an all-male comedy ballet show, so what you will see is good comedy, and great ballet, in this review using drag as part of that comedy.
What do you want your audiences to take away from the show?
A really good time. You know we have lots of different comedy, lots of different types of ballet, and many different personalities with a variety of music. While there is quite a bit of variety in the show, there is very very strong dance!
I see that the troupe was founded in 1974, tell me a little bit about that history.
It was founded in 1974 by a group of guys who were dancers, but also comedians. In the late '60's and early '70's it was less expensive to live in New York City So there were lots of people experimenting with different types of theater and comedy. Everything was not so financially driven. So these guys just got together and put on this really good show in the tradition of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and it just took off. So it's been 40 years or so and there have been all sorts of ups and downs. The basic premise of the Dance Company, because it really is a Dance Company, is to provide an entertaining view of classical ballet using drag and comedy to enhance that view.
According to your Bios, Which are hilarious, you have a huge cast! How long have they been performing together?
If you check out our web site (www.trockadero.org) you'll see that everyone has a ballerina name and a male dancer name. There is really only 16 dancers in the company. You'll also see that we have dancers from all over the world and with various lengths in the company. RoBert Carter has what, 22 years and Philip Martin Nielsen has been here 3 years.
That gives you a lot of diversity in dancers!
Yes! That is what we are looking for, a wide variety of personalities.
Why all Male?
Initially it was a cross dressing show, with male and female cross dressers. The females weren't that interested in continuing and women dressing as men just wasn't that funny in terms of visuals. So comedy coming through in the drag aspect has a long history in theater going back to Vaudeville., and in the "70's with people like Flip Wilson. So we use it to enhance our comedy.
What does the rest of your tour look like? Where do you go from here?
We don't think of it in terms of tour, but in terms of our year. We actually have about 100 performances a year. We divide that up so that January, February, and March we're around the country. Like March 21st and 22nd we are at the Kennedy Center performing with a full symphony orchestra. Then late spring we head to Europe, this year beginning with Madrid and then Helsinki. After that we have a Japan tour, then Italy and finally Luxemburg. So it's a pretty busy year for us, like I said we traditionally do a hundred, 100, 105 shows a year.
What is your parting message to the audience?
Just come and be prepared to have a really good time! OH! And bring the kids! In 1974 this was not considered an appropriate show for children, luckily, society has changed and we have lots of kids in our audiences now. This is a great introduction to ballet. It's interesting how society has changed in such a way that what was once something you would NEVER take your kids to see, is now accepted and family friendly. That says quite a bit about society.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo Bring 'Testosterone and Tutus' to Overture
"The funniest night you will ever have at the ballet." - Sunday Times
Madison, Wis. - Overture Center welcomes Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, also known as The TROCKS, to Overture Hall for one night only on Friday, February 24 at 8 p.m. The program will include Le Lac Des Cygnes, Pas de Six from Esmeralda and Don Quixote.
The TROCKS were founded in 1974 on the heels of New York's Stonewall riots by a group of ballet enthusiasts for the purpose of presenting a playful, entertaining view of traditional, classical ballet in parody form and en travesti and performed in the late-late shows in Off-Off Broadway lofts. The Company of professional male dancers performing the full range of the ballet and modern dance repertoire, including classical and original works in faithful renditions of the manners and conceits of those dance styles has appeared in over 34 countries and over 600 cities worldwide since its founding in 1974.
The comedy is achieved by incorporating and exaggerating the foibles, accidents, and underlying incongruities of serious dance. The fact that men dance all the parts--heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, sylphs, water sprites, romantic princesses, angst-ridden Victorian ladies--enhances (rather than mocks) the spirit of dance as an art form, delighting and amusing the most knowledgeable, as well as novices, in the audiences.
The TROCKS' numerous tours have included ten tours to Australia and New Zealand, 29 to Japan (where their annual summer tours have created a nation-wide cult following and a fan club), nine to other parts of Asia, twelve to South America, three to South Africa, and 76 tours of Europe, including 21 tours of the United Kingdom. In the United States, the Company has become a regular part of the college and university circuit in addition to regular dance presentations in cities in 49 states.
Rebels on Pointe, the first-ever cinéma vérité documentary film celebrating Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, was released in early February 2017. The film, which juxtaposes exclusive, behind-the-scenes access and intimate, character-driven stories of its dancers, is highlighted by amazing performances shot around the world. Rebels on Pointe ultimately celebrates our shared humanity through universal themes of identity, dreams, family, love, loss, determination and resilience... proving that a ballerina is not merely a woman dancing, but an act of revolution in a tutu.
Tickets start at $25 and are available in person at the Overture Center Ticket Office (201 State Street), online at overture.org or by phone at 608.258.4141.
For an additional $15, attendees can arrive early to expand upon their experience before the show (6 p.m. on Friday, February 24) through Overture's Get Social program. A Get Social ticket includes appetizers, a themed signature cocktail, activities such as a virtual backstage tour with The TROCKS, mingling with special guests and more. Overture's Get Social is presented by Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. More information is available at overture.org/getsocial.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is part of Overture Center's Dance Series.
Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and five galleries where national and international touring artists, ten resident companies and hundreds of local artists engage people in over half a million educational and artistic experiences each year. Overture.org
COLETTE ADAE was orphaned at the age of three when her mother, a ballerina of some dubious distinction, impaled herself on the first violinist's bow after a series of rather uncontrolled fouette voyage. Colette was raised and educated with the "rats" of the Opera House but the trauma of her childhood never let her reach her full potential. However, under the kind and watchful eye of the Trockadero, she has begun to flower, and we are sure you will enjoy watching her growth.
VARVARA BRATCHIKOVA. People's Artist and Cat's Meow, was educated at the Revanchist Institute. She began her career as Pistachia in V. Stolichnaya's production of The Nutcracker and achieved stardom as Odette/Odile/Juliet/Giselle/Aurora in the famous Night of the 1000 Tsars. Her repertoire encompasses nearly all the works she appears in.
NADIA DOUMIAFEYVA. No one who has seen Heliazpopkin will soon forget the spiritual athleticism of Nadia Doumiafeyva, a child of Caucasus who changed her name for show business reasons. Her fiery attack combined with lyric somnolence produce confusion in audiences the world over, especially when applied to ballet.
LARISKA DUMBCHENKO. Before defecting to the West, Lariska's supreme agility aroused the interest of the Russian space program, and in 1962 she became the first ballerina to be shot into orbit. Hurtling through the stratosphere, she delivered handy make-up tips to an assembled crowd of celebrities back on earth, including the now legendary "Whitney Houston, we have a problem...."
NINA ENIMENIMYNIMOVA'S frail spiritual qualities have caused this elfin charmer to be likened to a lemon soufflé poised delicately on the brink of total collapse. Her adorably over-stretched tendons exude a childlike sweetness that belies her actual age.
HELEN HIGHWATERS has defected to America three times and been promptly returned on each occasion -- for "artistic reasons." Recently discovered en omelette at the Easter Egg Hunt in Washington, DC, she was hired by the Trockadero, where her inexplicable rise to stardom answers the musical question: Who put the bop in the bop-shibop shibop?
NINA IMMOBILASHVILI, for more years than she cares to admit, has been the Great Terror of the international ballet world. The omniscient and ubiquitous Immobilashvili is reputed to have extensive dossiers on every major dance figure, living and/or dead. This amazing collection has assured her entree into the loftiest choreographic circles; the roles she has thus been able to create are too numerous to mention. We are honored to present this grand dame in her spectacular return to the ballet stage.
IRINA KOLESTEROLIKOVA was discovered, along with Rasputin's boot, adrift in a basket on the River Neva by kindly peasants. Her debut at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, was marred by her overzealous grand jete into the Tsar's box, impaling a Grand Duchess. Banished from Russia, she made her way arduously to New York, where she founded - and still directs - the Ecole de Ballet de Hard-Nox. Her most famous exercise is the warm-up, consisting of a martini and an elevator.
MARIA PARANOVA's remarkable life story - only now coming to light after 19 dark years in near hopeless conviction that she was Mamie Eisenhower - will never fully be told. The discovery of her true identity (at a Republican fundraiser in Chicago) brought her to the attention of the Trockadero, where she is slowly recovering her technical powers.
EUGENIA REPELSKII The secrets of Mme Repelskii's beginnings lie shrouded behind the Kremlin wall; in fact, no fewer than six lie in the wall (in jars of assorted sizes). Dancing lightly over pogroms and other sordid reorganizational measures, Eugenia has emerged as a ballerina nonpareil whose pungency is indisputable.
MOUSSIA SHEBARKAROVA. A celebrated child prodigy back in the Brezhnev era, Moussia Shebarkarova astounded her parents at the age of two by taking a correspondence course in ballet. Sadly, due to the unreliable Russian postal system, she has only just graduated.
ALLA SNIZOVA enjoyed great success as a baby ballerina at the mere age of 9. Being a child prodigy, she developed serious allergy problems and could only perform short pieces. Known as the "little orphan," Miss Snizova joined the Trockadero on tour, appearing cloaked in an enigma (complete with zip-out lining). A consummate actress, she has danced the part of Little Miss Markova and the title role of Glinka's Popoy-the Sailor Man.
OLGA SUPPHOZOVA made her first public appearance in a KGB line-up under dubious circumstances. After a seven-year-to-life hiatus, she now returns to her adoring fans. When questioned about her forced sabbatical, Olga's only comment was "I did it for Art's sake." Art, however, said nothing.
GUZELLA VERBITSKAYA was born on a locomotive speeding through the Ural Mountains. She quickly realized the limitations of her native folk dancing and quaint handicrafts. After her arrival in America, she learned everything she now knows about ballet from a seminar entitled "Evil Fairies on the Periphery of the Classical Dance."
YAKATARINA VERBOSOVICH. Despite possessing a walk-in wardrobe so large that it has its own postcode, Yakatarina remains a true ballerina of the people. Indeed, she is so loved in her native Russia that in 1993 the grateful citizens of Minsk awarded her the key to the city. That might well have remained the "golden moment" of this great ballerina's career had they not subsequently changed the locks.
DORIS VIDANYA. The legendary Vitebsk Virago first achieved recognition as a child performer, appearing with the famous Steppe Brothers in the world premiere of Dyspepsiana (based on an unfinished paragraph by M. Gorki). As a favorite of Nicholas, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and the czarevich, La Effhrvia (as she is known to her admirers) was compelled to flee St. Petersburg disguised as a Karsky shashlik. Upon arrival in the New World, she established herself as the Prima Ballerina Assoluta de Kalamazoo, a title she still retains.
TATIANA YOUBETYABOOTSKAYA comes to the ballet stage after her hair-raising escape from the successful (but not terribly tasteful) overthrow of her country's glamorous government. She made a counter-revolutionary figure of herself when she was arrested for single-handedly storming the People's Museum, where her fabulous collection of jewels was being insensitively displayed alongside a machine gun. The resilient Madame Youbetyabootskaya is currently the proprietress of American's only mail order Course in Classical Ballet.
JACQUES d'ANIELS was originally trained as an astronaut before entering the world of ballet. Strong but flexible, good natured but dedicated, sensible but not given to unbelievable flights of fantastic behavior, Mr. d'Aniels is an expert on recovering from ballet injuries (including the dread "Pavlova's clavicle").
ILYA BOBOVNIKOV the recipient of this year's Jean de Brienne Award, is particularly identified for his Rabelaisian ballet technique. A revolutionary in the art of partnering, he was the first to introduce crazy glue to stop supported pirouettes.
ROLAND DEAULIN. Having invented the concept of the "bad hair year" or "annus hairibilis," French born Roland now devotes his spare time to selling his new line of Michael Flatley Wigs on the QVC shopping channel.
PEPE DUFKA. The ballet world was rocked to its foundations last month when Pepe Dufka sued 182 of New York's most ardent ballet lovers for loss of earnings. Mr. Dufka claims that nineteen years of constant exposure to rotten fruit and vegetables has led to painful and prolonged bouts of leafmould, cabbage root fly, and bottom-end rot. Sadly, this historic court case comes too late for a former colleague whose legs were recently crushed by a genetically modified avocado: he will never dance again.
KETEVAN IOSIFIDI was dismissed from the Kirov Ballet in 1991 when he blackmailed the horn section of the orchestra and forced them to play Papa Don't Preach in the third act of Romeo and Juliet while he vogued en pointe. Though Ketevan's appreciation of high culture is second to none, he still thinks that "prima donna" means any song recorded before Like a Virgin.
STANISLAS KOKITCH, "The Forgotten Man" of ballet, is hardly ever mentioned in reviews by critics or in discussions by devoted balletomanes, despite having created several important roles in now-forgotten ballets. He is the author of "The Tragedy of My Life," an autobiography not at all reliable.
THE LEGUPSKI BROTHERS. - Araf, Marat, Sergey, Vladimir and Vyacheslav - are not really brothers, nor are their names really Araf, Marat, Sergey, Vladimir or Vyacheslav nor are they real Russians, nor can they tell the difference between a pirouette and a jete... but...well...they do move about rather nicely ...and... they fit into the costumes.
MIKHAIL MUDKIN, the famed Russian danseur for whom the word "Bolshoi" was coined, comes to American from his triumphs as understudy to a famous impresario in the role of the Bear in Petrushka.
BORIS MUDKO is the Trocks' newest danseur, having joined only last year. Boris is a drunken but talented Russian from Dzerzhinsk, in the former Soviet Union, who insisted on an audition while the company was on tour. It took some time to sober him up to make him coherent - he was given gallons of tea and several enemas - but finally he was accepted into the company. He has since given up all drink and is doing quite well.
BORIS NOWITSKY has been with the greatest ballerinas of our time; he has even danced with some of them. One of the first defective RussIan Male stars, he left the motherland for purely capitalistic reasons. Amazingly, between his appearances on television and Broadway, as well as in movies, commercials, magazines, special events, and women's nylons, he occasionally still has time to dance.
YURI SMIRNOV. At the age of sixteen, Yuri ran away from home and joined the Kirov Opera because he thought Borodin was a prescription barbiturate. Luckily for the Trockadero, he soon discovered that he didn't know his arias from his elbow and decided to become a ballet star instead.
INNOKENTI SMOKTUMUCHSKY is known only to the most cultured and refined balletomanes in the dark alleyways of St. Petersburg. Originally a promising dancer-choreographer, his only ballet - Le Dernier Mohicain - was stolen by the director of the company. In severe depression and shock, he burned his ballet slippers and fled to the sewers, only to surface these forty years later.
KRAVLJI SNEPEK comes to the Trockadero from his split-level birthplace in Siberia, where he excelled in toe, tap, acrobatic and Hawaiian. This good natured Slav is famous for his breathtaking technique: a blend of froth and frou-frou centered on a spine of steel, painfully acquired at the hands and feet of his teacher, Glib Generalization, who has already trained many able dancers. As an artist in the classical, heroic, tragical mold, young Kravlji wrenched the heart of all who saw him dance Harlene, the Goat Roper in The Best Little Dacha in Sverdlovsk