The world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (The Trocks) combine ballet and drag to create a real spectacle. The male ballet dancers explore pointework as they take on numerous roles, both male and female to create a company that boasts high-quality technique, beautiful presentation and hilarious characterisation.
Based in New York, the company are touring the UK this autumn with their latest production in collaboration with Dance Consortium. I spoke to Giovanni Ravelo (Gio) who has worked with the company for ten years.
“I came from Columbia and fell in love with dance because music is such a massive thing back home,” he told me. “I realised I wanted to dance professionally when I was watching the Cinderella ballet on TV when I was nine years old. It was the Paris Opera’s production and I just thought it was incredible. I then started asking my parents what ballet was and had a passion for dance.” Coming from a small town, Gio was constantly told ballet was for girls, so joined the dance ensemble in High School.
Gio started learning folk dance at high school, which he explained taught him the
Whilst working in the dance industry, one day when Gio was fooling around in a girl’s pointe shoes, his friend told him about The Trocks in New York. “I was always so interested in choreography and wanted to see how pointe works. I wanted to know how the girls feel when they dance, you really don’t realise how hard it is, it makes you think women are from another planet. Pointe shoes just prove that women are stronger than men,” he said. “My friend noticed that my technique improved because of practicing in pointe shoes, so he told me about this all-male company that dance in pointe shoes and wear pointe shoes.”
Gio originally thought it was crazy but went to the library to take out a DVD of The Trocks and loved it, but didn’t think it was for him. “When I had a month break from my dance company, my friend convinced me just to go and take class with him. I went along and they blew my mind,” he explained. “They were so professional and worked so hard and the choreography was just incredible.”
After dancing with the company, Gio went up to the director and told him how much he enjoyed taking class with them especially after watching a DVD of their performance. The director replied: “That’s great that you did so much preparation before coming to audition.” Gio soon realised his friend tricked him into auditioning and then the director asked him to do a pas de deux with another dancer in the company for him to watch.
“It’s funny because then the director said how much he wanted to hire me, but that they just didn’t have space in the company,” Gio explained. “He invited me to watch the rest of the rehearsal and during the rehearsal he left the room to take a phone call. When he got back he looked very stressed and then explained that a dancer had a family emergency and had to leave the company and asked if I could join the company.”
“I realised I needed to call my boyfriend and tell him that I was going to start travelling the world dressed as a woman.”
Since then Gio has been with The Trocks for ten years. “It’s funny how things work out,” he said. “My dream was to come to the United States and dance, and I did.”
Gio takes on a multitude of roles in the company’s productions. “I do lots of male roles in The Trocks too. Being able to dance en pointe really improved my technique as a male dancer,” he said. “I recommend all male dancers to give it a go as it is another understanding of their bodies and of their partners.”
With the rise in popular culture of drag because of TV shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race, The Trocks’ success has grown immensely. “Being in the company for the last ten years, I’ve really witnessed this change. Firstly, because the dancers auditioning are just incredible, they are so prepared and know how to dance en pointe excellently,” he said. “But also the venues. Tory Dobrin has been the director Artistic Director for 25 years now and has seen the company perform in smaller theatres and not be treated fair. Recently we performed at the Kennedy Centre with an orchestra and our director really was beside himself.”
However, it isn’t just the industry that’s changing, the audiences are too. “The main reason people came to see The Trocks before was because they were bored of the same old dance all the time, but now people come to see us to watch our technique,” he said. “We see more kids every time, parents bring their kids more and more now. You can hear the laughter of the kids in the audience and that’s amazing because it’s such pure laughter.
“Boys and girls would wait at the door. We even have parents who have LGBTQ kids who bring them to our show so they see a future and feel like they can fit in. It is great for the future generation to see that if they’re different, that’s great, because there is a place for everyone in the world.”