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Musclebound men in tutus make a pointe of sending up ballet

MEN in tights - there’s no escaping them. We’ve just had a terrific ITV documentary with Geordie shipyard workers strutting their stuff with the English National Ballet in which The Full Monty met Billy Elliot.

And now it’s men in tutus, with the return of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and hirsute, musclebound chaps precariously perched on pointe looking as camp as a row of shocking-pink silk tents.

The New York-based dance company that began life in a Manhattan loft tours Scotland this week, and the one thing you can guarantee is that there will not be a dry eye in the house. But when you’ve picked yourself up, pause for a moment to admire the sheer artistry of the likes of Margeaux Mundeyn, Vera Namethattunenova and Ludmila Beaulemova.

Consider the torrid glamour of Gerd Tord, "the Prune Danish of Russian Ballet", and the astonishing charisma of Irina Bakpakova and her mysterious ability to dance on a herring as the Sour Cream Fairy.

And as for Fifi Barkova, whose "beginnings lie shrouded behind the walls of the Kremlin - in about six jars of assorted sizes", well, in the words of the company’s artistic director Tory Dobrin: "Her pungency is indisputable."

This is the deliciously deadpan Trocks’ 30th anniversary tour and, says Dobrin, a former prima ballerina with the company: "We honestly never imagined that we would survive 10 years, let alone 30.

"You might expect the joke of having transvestites on pointe dancing classical ballets would have worn thin by now, but we’re more in demand than ever."

Dobrin has been with the Trocks for a quarter of a century and is still having a ball taking the Michael out of the classics. "If we have fun on stage, then audiences have fun too. We send people away with a big smile on their face and that’s no mean achievement nowadays."

Everything that could go wrong in this most artificial of art forms does - haughty ballerinas execute pratfalls, some chaps drop their beefy partners, others fall out, and the corps de ballet flirt outrageously, batting six-inch-long eyelashes.

The Trocks also bring to Scotland the Balanchine-inspired Go For Barocco and a new piece, Ecole de Ballet, in which we "return to the womb of ballet’s magical glamour", visiting Madame Repelski’s Terpsichorean Academy.

This is the Trocks’ fifth visit to Edinburgh and their first to Glasgow. "We don’t dare come to Scotland and not bring Act II of Swan Lake," says Dobrin. "It’s a kind of ritual."

The Trocks’ parodies are, of course, funniest to those who most revere the originals, and it’s worth remembering that in order to dance this badly, you have to be able to dance well.

Dobrin insists that every new member of the company must fulfil two out of three criteria. "We look for performers who are good dancers, have a sense of humour and are team players. Guys don’t have to be great dancers. If they can make audiences weep with laughter and be part of the team, we choose them over the great, divaesque dancer who might be depressingly unfunny."

As for the notoriously painful pointe work, Dobrin insists that it’s not that difficult for a 12-stone guy to drag himself across the stage - and drag is the operative word - on his toes. "It’s all about technique. Our dancers have to be superb technicians, so they work hard."

Finally, he warns, photography is strictly forbidden in the theatre when the Trocks are in full flight. "Sudden bursts of light tend to remind our more fragile ballerinas of Bolshevik gunfire."

•Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Eden Court, Inverness, Tuesday; Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thursday to Saturday; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, November 17-18; and His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, November 20-22

 
 
 

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