Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo: Ballet en travesti comes to NAC

Photo courtesy of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photographed by Zoran Jelenic.

Published by Centretown News

OTTAWA – Men dressed in tutus will be prancing through the National Arts Centre on Feb. 17.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a group of dancers founded in 1974 that parodies classic ballets by featuring men in the roles traditionally played by women. Still, the dancers are all classically trained in traditional ballet.

The troupe’s name was chosen to mimic the infamous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which also gives its performers Russian-sounding stage names.

Pretto’s Russian stage name is Nina Immobilashvili. Photo by Zoran Jelenic.

Alberto Pretto, the son of two musical education teachers, has been a dancer with the ballet troupe for roughly five years. He was born in Vicenza, Italy, and began his ballet training at age 14.

But after studying at several academies, Pretto found it difficult to find work as a dancer in Europe due to his body’s proportions.

“So many companies I auditioned for were looking for that dream prince that is six feet tall with blue eyes, blonde hair and very broad shoulders,” Pretto said. “You know, it’s hard to fit in that frame, and that is when Trockadero comes in, because we don’t have that specific obsession with body type.”

After moving to America, Pretto found a home in Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

“I feel like I can fit here because I can just be myself and be the best dancer I can be with my own body.”

In fact, Suzanne Charron, captain usher at the NAC, said that the show’s primary charm comes from the variety of body types.

“It was just amazing,” Charron said. “It’s just seeing those big men wearing tutus and doing very fancy steps.”

Charron said the group is not the first drag-dance show to grace the NAC’s stage. In fact, this will mark the third showing of Trockadero. Recently, the arts centre also showed the Broadway hit Kinky Boots.

Pretto said the group prefers the French translation “en travesti” to describe their performance rather than “drag.”

“The only difference is that when you think about a drag show, you think of a show performed at a bar, but the ballet Trockadero performs in a theatre,” Pretto said.

Jade London, one of Ottawa’s most popular drag queens, said she believes it is great that the NAC is showcasing LGBTQ talent.

“I think drag should be showcased more often in the mainstream,” London said.

When asked what first drew her to drag performance, London said it was the confidence it gave her.

“Drag is the best way I can showcase all my talents,” London said. “There is a lot that goes into it.”

From the hair and makeup to the frilly tutus and the choreography, it’s no doubt that drag is challenging, particularly when paired with classic ballet.

Pretto said what while it may prove difficult, it is never truly too late to learn ballet.

“I think the human body has a lot of resources,” Pretto said. “It also depends on how gifted this person is physically and mentally because there’s a lot that goes into defining a dancer and who can succeed in the profession.”

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