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September 24, 2011

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Men in tights dance 'Swan Lake'

At last the Trocks - an acclaimed all-male comic ballet company - will take the stage in Shanghai and perform parodies of "Swan Lake" and other classic ballets.

Who says only women can be swans?

A male dancing a dying, molting swan en pointe is a sight to behold.The professional New York-based company that mockingly calls itself Les Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo will perform on October 3 and 4 at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

Several years ago, the ballet company was turned down when they wanted to give shows in Shanghai, says Jin Xing, a famous ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer and actress, also known for sharp critiques in China's modern art field.

"Many Chinese think that swans can only be played by women, and they hold the prejudice that male ballet dancers in tutus are indecent, far from elegant," Jin says. "I just don't understand why so many lame swans from Russia have dominated the city's theater stages so many years, and why can't we give a little room to the first-rate quality male swans for once."

The Trocks, as they are known to fans, have performed worldwide since they were formed by professional ballet and modern dancers in 1974.

Dancing en pointe, they spoof the conventions, cliches and romance of traditional ballets; their presentations have been called affectionate travesties.

Blending comedy and love of dance, they prove that men can, indeed, dance en point without falling flat on their faces.

"These male dancers master the most highly skillful, first-rate ballet techniques that many ballerinas would admire. I could say they dance much better than many of their female counterparts," said Jin at a press conference with ballet principals.

"They've got greater strength and muscles to dance en pointe perfectly. What's more important, these male dancers have the passion for ballet," she says.

Ranging in age from 25 to 40, they are all professionals, a number of them retired, who want to continue their dance career.

They train rigorously to keep in shape and maintain muscle - harder than smaller and lighter ballerinas - because it's extremely difficult to dance en point with a greater body weight.

They skillfully execute fouettes, double tours en l'air and other difficult movements in faithful renditions of the classics, as they deconstruct serious dance with comedy. They incorporate and exaggerate various elements, cliches and incongruities of serious dance.

"You can feel the humor shining with wisdom from their moves and choreography," Jin says.

Ballet master Paul Ghiselin, who plays the molting, knock-kneed swan, joined the company in 1995 when he was 33 years old. He says he really wanted to act.

"In my previous company, we did a lot of dramatic pieces, but there was seldom any humor in these choreographies, so when I got the chance to join Trockadero - put on a persona, poke fun at ballet, as well as keep on dancing - it was really very attractive to me," Ghiselin said in a earlier interview.

The fact that men dance all the parts - heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, sylphs, water sprites, romantic princesses, angst-ridden Victorian ladies - enhances the spirit of the art form, delighting and amusing the most knowledgeable, as well as novices, in the audience, says the Trocks website.

"You can have a good laugh when watching the show, but after that you will be deeply moved by what they have sacrificed to ballet dancing and show your respect for these men, who dressed in tutus and big-size toe shoes," Jin says.

Audiences can decide whether the show is high camp or high art.

Date: October 3-4, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 120-880 yuan

Tel: 962-388


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