Danseurs in tutus and tights

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a troupe of male dancers who portray such legends as Jacques d'Ambrosia, Olga Supphozova and Ida Nevasayneva while hovering en pointe or executing an entrechat. For 40 years, the dancers have tickled audiences worldwide with their deft technical prowess and sly humor. This week, they arrive at George Mason University for an evening of classical ballet seasoned with graceful ornamentation, hairy chests and muscular thighs encased in leotards.

Contrary to the suspicions of some who attend their first Trockadero show expecting the dancers to be klutzy, all boast extensive training in the classical repertory, no matter the zeal with which they satirize the genre in such parodies as "Go for Barocco," set to music by Bach, and "Walpurgis Night," accompanied by melodies from Charles Gounod's "Faust."

Artistic director Tory Dobrin joined Trockadero in 1980, after his initial interest in modern dance shifted to ballet. He came by dance quite unexpectedly after an earthquake forced students from the destroyed Los Angeles High School to attend his in West Hollywood, Calif. Because the P.E. classes were doubled up to accommodate the extra students, the only elective available to him was dance.

His interest piqued, he studied modern dance in Los Angeles, Paris and at the Houston Ballet School. Following a season with Dallas Ballet, he moved to New York. With a pointe class under his belt and a working knowledge of Kirov and Bolshoi dances, he survived the audition for the Trockadero tour to South America. More than three decades later, he is a master of the great classic dances, from "Swan Lake" to "The Nutcracker" and numerous surprises in between.

Onstage
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
» Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday
» Info: $24 to $48; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

"My role is setting the tone," he said, while riding on a bus taking the company from San Antonio to El Paso, Texas. "I choose the dancers, organize the tour and encourage everybody to pitch in where necessary because we're a small company. In addition to the dancers, we have a wardrobe master who sees that the tutus are in perfect shape. Because men's feet are larger than those of most ballerinas, he also must watch for pointe shoes that have worn down and need replacement, and refurbish the wigs.

"Our sets and lighting are by Kip Marsh, chairman of the Department of [Theater] at Brooklyn College. They enhance the various dances we present on the tour. To make certain that every dancer is in top shape, I alternate the cast every few days so they will be using and strengthening different muscles. During each show, we perform either a pas de deux or a modern work, along with the program that is announced in advance, but the choice depends on the condition of the dancers. We have only one couple doing the pas de deux, so the decision is not made until the day before."

The imaginative sets by Marsh include the one for "ChopEniana" or "Les Sylphides," a ballet about incidents in the composer Chopin's life, which will be danced at GMU. It is an abstract classical ballet suggesting dreams, desire and melancholy. In contrast, Marsh designed one for the company's presentation of "La Trovatiara Pas De Cinq," about an all-girl North African ballet troupe of pirate girls from the Barbary Coast. The music is by Giuseppe Verdi, who originally was so impressed by the dancers that he offered to compose a ballet just for them. Sadly, he did not follow through, but the Trockadero revival of his promise is appropriately amusing.

"I enjoy all our dances, especially the 'Dying Swan,' which audiences like so well we include it on every program," Dobrin said. "As we travel on the bus, I've been working on our programs for next season. It's always fun to plan ahead and anticipate the audience reaction to men who dance as gracefully as the greatest Russian ballerina. Almost everyone who hasn't seen the show before is shocked."

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