It certainly looks like ballet -- graceful ladies in tutus dancing en pointe, executing delicate entrechats, fouettes and pirouettes. But look a little closer and you'll see that Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is ballet with a twist, and those ballet shoes look to be about a size 12. And is that hair peeking out of the top of their leotards?
Yep. Members of the all-male comic ballet company play both male and female roles in performances that are both tribute to and parody of classic ballet styles. The Trocks, as they are affectionately called, are scheduled to perform at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido on Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.
Part of the humor comes from seeing men in makeup ala Tammy Faye, dressed as swans, water sprites, princesses and Victorian ladies. Over the Trocks' 30 years of performing, the group has perfected a brand of hilarity that lampoons the manners, vanities and foibles of ballet.
"We parody classical and modern works in our ballet repertory and we do it with all sorts of humor, from the very subtle to the out and out slapstick," said Trockadero Artistic Director Tory Dobrin. "It's a two-hour evening in the theater, so we have to really vary it enough for lots of different types of comedy -- along with some very good dancing."
So good, in fact, that critics and audiences alike acknowledge the Trocks' precise technique as much as their comedy. The 16 dancers on the roster are all professionally trained, hailing from places like the Joffrey Ballet School, the Pacific Northwest Ballet School and the Victor Ullate School of Dance in Madrid. The group has traversed the globe 20 times, said Dobrin, performing in more than 500 cities worldwide.
"Everyone in this company is a hard core ballet dancer," said Dobrin, adding, "but they're also comedians, and so this is a perfect way to express their comedy side."
The Trocks have a serious side, too. Their return to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido marks the start of "OUTstaged," a new program at the center that provides opportunities for gay and lesbian arts enthusiasts to take in a show, mingle over food and drinks, and help out a good cause. Following the performance, patrons can meet the Trocks at a dessert reception and participate in an auction to benefit Fraternity House Inc.
Tickets for the performance and OUTstaged reception are $70 to $80, with $10 of each ticket going to benefit Fraternity House, one of only two licensed residential care facilities for people living with HIV/AIDS in San Diego's North County. The organization provides residents with healthy meals, medication, emotional support and activities.
The Trocks have long supported the fight against HIV and AIDS, appearing in benefits for AIDS organizations such as DRA (Dancers Responding to AIDS), Classical Action in New York City, Dancers for Life in Toronto and others.
For the Escondido show, the Trocks will perform a repertoire of three works, including the group's signature piece, "Swan Lake (Act II)." The technically demanding and recognizable ballet provides a scenario that begs for spoofing, with an evil sorcerer, a love-struck prince, a beautiful princess and a gaggle of prancing swans. "Ecole de Ballet" is the group's two-scene homage to ballet academies, and "Go for Barocco" is a satire on venerable Russian-American choreographer George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco."
While parody is usually funniest to those familiar with the original, Dobrin says the performances appeal to both ballet enthusiasts as well as those that don't know a tutu from a pas de deux.
"It's taking something completely familiar and putting a twist on it so it can be seen in a completely fresh way," he said.
PROGRAM: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Date/Time: Friday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.
Location: California Center for the Arts, Escondido, located at 340 N. Escondido Blvd.
More information: (800) 988-4253 or visit www.artcenter.org