Men in Tutus is a brave show that goes beyond drag

Men In Tutus. Picture: Supplied

Men In Tutus. Picture: Supplied

The production is really funny but, deep down, the dancers aren’t scared to blur the lines of gender and art.

At the intersection of ballet and comedy you find Men in Tutus. To get there, however, one needs to get past the lines of gender construct because, subversively, this ballet is more than just men dancing en pointe.

The significance of the show goes beyond dancers in full drag performing in roles historically reserved for female dancers; it is about compassion and respect for dance that livens up something that is sometimes considered drab.

So much that other ballet companies have taken a note from Men in Tutus.

“A lot of traditional ballet companies are incorporating more comedy pieces into their ballets. Maybe we should incorporate more serious work into ours,” laughs Victor Trevino, the founder of Les Ballets Eloelle.

 

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Les Ballets Eloelle  (that’s pronounced LOL, like the acronym) is all about pushing boundaries but, firstly, it’s also about job creation. It’s a competitive world for male ballet dancers and many would be out of work were it not for the inventive Trevino.

“There’s a shortage of male dancers, but when you get to a certain level there’s more competition because there’s only so many parts,” he says. “What we are doing is not removing people from other companies, but providing that kind of work.”

The reasoning is also responsible and sensible. One of the main cast members, Jonathan Mendez, puts it in perspective. “Ballet is constant. If you don’t dance for three or four days, your timing is off. Ballet is all about working to make it look easy.”

Mendez has danced with the company for a number of tours, but still remembers the first time he danced en pointe. “It was actually scary, I didn’t know where my feet were because I couldn’t see them.”

The fact that it was likely covered with a tutu also added to the nightmare. But getting the hang of it actually proves beneficial.

 

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When training as a male dancer, you’re trained to be very grounded. “For this you have to pull up more, and that gives you a certain lightness and grace,” he adds.

That duality is helpful when it comes to ballet dance as a whole. According to Trevino, since travelling the world with Les Ballets Eloelle, as an art form, Japan has become a favourite country to visit (after South Africa, of course …).

“They [Japanese] discuss the show in artistic terms and what we are saying beyond the laughter,” says Trevino.

Over the years, he has played with parody but also presented shows that provide commentary on traditional ballet and modern dance. Whether it’s through music or what the dancers do, commentary in Men in Tutus is needed because it keeps ballet alive.

Trevino, as a seasoned dancer, with a bit wry irony, performs the Dying Swan in the current tour. “I’m on my toes for three minutes, and before every show I take three Advils [anti-inflammatory medication]. It’s ballet in a bottle,” he jokes.

 

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On the serious side, there’s a clear message the show, as a family friendly production, wants to instill in parents and children.

If you’re hesitant to take your boy or girl to the show, consider this: “Dance will benefit you for life, the kids I teach are all top students and scholars. There’s proof that dance helps with math and music because it gives you such discipline,” says Trevino.

Men it Tutus is really funny but, deep down, the dancers aren’t scared to blur the lines of gender and art.

Info

  • The show features Pas de Quatre, Pas de Deux, Le Corsaire (a parody of George Balanchine’s choreography, Go for Barocco) and Swan Lake
  • Performances begin tomorrow at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm at The Teatro, Montecasino
  • Tickets are between R200 and R400. Book at Computicket

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