‘Drag’ ballet divas – Men In Tutus in South Africa, direct from New York

The ‘drag ballet’ Men In Tutus, performed by New York’s all-male Les Ballets Eloelle company, is coming to Joburg and Cape Town this April.

The show is noted not just for its tongue-in-cheek humour but also technical brilliance and passion for classical and contemporary ballet.

Les Ballets Eloelle (say it aloud and you’ll get the joke), led by founder, Artistic Director and lead dancer Victor Trevino, features – as one of the few all-male comedy ballet companies in the world – a troupe of men dancing roles traditionally reserved for women.

The New York Times called Men In Tutus, “Artistically brilliant, absolutely hilarious…freshly funny, sweet-tempered and inventive,” while TimeOut praised it for its “technical precision and dramatic excellence.”

The comedy aspect of Men In Tutus – clever, affectionate parody of the ballet canon, both classical and contemporary via the dancers’ hilarious female personae – never undermines either the challenges of performing the complex choreography or the exceptional results, which make the show so thrilling to watch.

As Trevino explains: “Men do not traditionally train in pointe shoes. We tend to be heavier, with our weight distributed differently to female dancers. Women generally begin training in dancing on pointe when they are young; about 11 years old, while men are not encouraged to do so, as there’s very little opportunity to use that skill in classical dance.”

Trevino, who began his comedic career with Les Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo, where he performed almost all the female leads in the repertoire as a principal dancer, adds that it is not only the individual proficiency of the dancers that is impressive.

“Learning to work as partners is another challenge,” he notes. “Dancers in any traditional ballet company will appreciate the difficulties here, but when men partner men, there are several adjustments to make. Again, we must take into account our weight and physicality, but we also need to learn how to be supported or lifted as we move.”

International flavour

Men In Tutus features dancers from the USA, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Australian, Colombia, the Isle of Wight and Japan, underlining the global appeal of ballet, dance and comedy. This ties in wonderfully with the objectives of Ballet Eloelle, which include: cultivating new audiences for dance through comedy; performing for audiences who may not have access to ballet; and to preserve the integrity and standards of excellence in the ballets they perform so as to educate audiences about the art form.

Of course, whatever the cultural backgrounds and experience of these dancers – who have trained at revered institutions like the New York Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Swedish Ballet, Berlin State Opera Ballet, the English National Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and the Hong Kong Ballet – they’re also on stage to entertain!

Merriment and movement

In Men In Tutus, audiences will meet (among others): Nina Minimaximova (Victor Trevino): On her third divorce and the toast of Paris, St Petersburg, Tokyo and Long Island. Nina reigned supreme on the stages of the world’s greatest theatres until her forced retirement by jealous detractors and a public with taste. She now occupies the turbaned, sitting roles made famous by ballerinas of a certain age.

Tamara Chilirojo (Alexandre Alguero Alejos): Young of spirit and fresh like fish. She radiates a sense of naivete with her “Who, me?” countenance and her “Why her?” competitiveness. Detractors have criticised her for still being “green”, but Tamara wants it on record that the condition was long ago cleared up with antibiotics supplied by her Aunt Violet.

Imelda Hardtoes (Carlos Garcia): The former first lady of Philippine dance. Imelda left her homeland under dubious circumstances, but was granted artistic asylum by Les Ballets Eloelle and brings with her a wealth of experience. And 4 532 pairs of designer pointe shoes.

The cast also includes Walter Battistini, Ivan Felix, Jimmy Lumba, Jhonatan Mendez, Victor Maguad, Joel Morris (an ex-South African Ballet Theatre star), Ian Ocampo, Eugene Obille, Shaughn Neil Pegoraro, Joseph Phillips, Tetsushi Segawa and Wataru Tokue.

Men In Tutus is a showcase for outrageous skill, deliberate misadventures – and the occasional hissy fit. Be dazzled by dancing, delighted by drollness and diverted by these ballet divas in drag!

Johannesburg
Dates: Friday 12th, to Sunday 14th, April 2019
Time: Friday 8pm; Saturday 3pm and 8pm; Sunday 2pm
Ticket prices: From R200 – R400
Venue: Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways
Booking: www.computicket.com

Cape Town
Dates: Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st April 2019
Time: Thursday 8pm; Saturday 3pm and 8pm; Sunday 2pm
Ticket prices: From R190
Venue: Opera House, Artscape
Booking: www.computicket.com

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