The ’70s marked the beginning of an increased visibility, activism and acceptance for the LGBTQ community in this country. The American Psychiatric Association removed “homosexuality” from its list of mental disorders, the nation held its inaugural gay pride parade, and a first gay rights bill was introduced in Congress.
So 1974 was a propitious year for the founding of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a company formed on the premise that men in tights and tutus parodying traditional, classical ballet en pointe could attract an appreciative audience. It was a clever gimmick, but one few critics thought would have staying power. When I, as a bunhead snob early in my journalism career first saw them in New York in the ’80s, I never could have imagined I’d be watching them — still and again — nearly 40 years later, as I did at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Thursday night.
From an historical perspective, the company has not just endured, but matured — though by that I mean they’ve gained seasoning, not sobriety. They remain a playful bastion of adolescent humor, but along the way, they’ve also acquired a mastery of the art form and a repertoire that ventures outside the classics. They juxtapose ballet’s beauty with its affectations and instill an appreciation for its difficulties without ever taking themselves as seriously as the art form. It’s less schtick and more slick.
While the predictable pratfalls and exaggerated histrionics still predominate, I found myself distracted from the antics when, time and again, my eyes were drawn to a few dancers whose technique en pointe and fluid artistry were of a high caliber by any gender standard. Unlike their more ungainly counterparts, they rarely broke character for a high-five or a “spontaneous” jig after a triple pirouette. These were serious dancers with some serious chops.Read more