Meet the Trocks: Men, Tutus and Talent

Ballet is a lot of things. It's elegant. It's graceful.

It's usually not hairy.

But Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is anything but a typical ballet troupe. For one, the dancers all are men. The dancers in tutus, feathers and heavy make-up? Those are men too.

Fernando Medina Gallego plays Odette the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, but says his performance isn't the traditional Swan Queen ballet enthusiasts are used to.

"I wouldn't play Odette like any other woman that you've seen because I'm not a woman," he said. "So I think that's the biggest difference that you would find."

Granted that is a big difference. But not the only difference. Because what the Trocks are really trying to do is find the "funny" in ballet.

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"Oh, there are plenty of opportunities," dancer Raffaele Morra said. "From the simple mistakes of the ballerina that's on the wrong side of the stage to the just exaggeration of the style … or you know many, many things that can happen on stage that are funny. Also, of course, we are men."

Trading Softness for a Bit of Naughty

The Trocks, determined from the start to poke holes in ballet, were founded in 1974 as an offspring of the gay pride movement New York City. They are now at the Joyce Theatre in New York City.

Tory Dobrin, the Trocks' artistic director, said ballet is ripe for satire because it takes itself so seriously.

Take a traditional performance of Swan Lake, for example.

"You're looking at swans, beautiful women with a softness, a finesse, a light energy, accomplishing the idea that love should triumph," Dobrin said. "That's what you're looking for and hopefully you're swept away into one of those places inside of you that first found love and maybe disappointment."

But the Trocks trade that softness and finesse for naughty swans.

"We're developing more of the character of the characterization of the swan queen and the prince for instance," Dobrin said. "The swans that we have in the chorus are like fractious birds up to no good."

Jokes are everywhere, even in fake ballerina names -- dancer Joshua Grant goes by "Katerina Bitchkova."

And at six-foot-four, Katerina -- er, Grant -- makes for one tall woman.

"The big Trockadero joke is tall girl-short boy, so a lot of times I get partnered as a girl with the short, teeny tiny boy comes up to my chest so it's hard to balance en pointe," Grant said.

Grant said his dance partners may not be able to lift him up, "but I'll let them hold me on my leg."

More Than Just Jokes

Then there are the jokes only ballet aficionados would appreciate. The troupe's full name -- Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo -- is a play on old Russian ballet companies.

But the jokes play, and play well, all over the world -- more than 200 shows a year to sold-out houses. This month they even performed for The Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla.

"It was amazing," Grant said. "I still haven't washed my hands since shaking hands with them."

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Trocks isn't their success, their attitude or even their Adam's apples. It is their dancing ability. They are really good.

"I think they're expecting, nothing of what they actually get," dancer Robert Carter said. "We're men, they know that we're dressing up and going to be wearing make up and wigs and tutus and point shoes. I don't believe they expect the level of artistry and skill that we have."

Carter trained with the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet. But his dream was always to join the Trocks.

"I didn't want to be a girl, but I knew I could do a lot of the same stuff and some of the stuff they couldn't do because I had the strength being a boy," he said. "I could do the stuff en pointe and it's fun."

En pointe puts the dancers up on their toes -- something men generally don't do in ballet. But there's a lot that men generally don't do in ballet that the Trocks do.

And it's more than just hilarious -- it's hilariously impressive.