Dancing en pointe isn’t just for the girls

Les Trocks turn the traditional notions of ballet upside down with all male versions of ballet classics.

It’s not every day you see men dancing en pointe, but Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Les Trocks), an all-male company based in New York, has made it their defining feature. While there are tutus, pirouettes, and numbers from ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle, Les Trocks are not your average classical troupe and they never take themselves too seriously.

Dancer Alberto Pretto spoke to me one morning from his hotel room in Calgary. He had a busy day ahead of him, as usual, with little time for sightseeing before leaving for the theatre at 2:00 p.m. for class, rehearsal, and getting into character before their evening performance.

Before joining Les Trocks, Pretto had standard classical ballet training at the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo. He then joined the English National Ballet and moved on to the Koblenz Ballet in Germany. But he wasn’t feeling fulfilled. “I wasn’t feeling that I was dancing enough; I wasn’t challenged enough,” said Pretto. “I had a dream, a fascination, about dancing en pointe; I thought I’d give the Trocks a try, and I got the job.”

Pretto soon realized the company was a great place to be, and is having a lot of fun dancing as his alter egos Nina Immobilashvili and Stanislas Kokitch. One of the main differences dancing for this company, said Pretto, is the amount of laughter he gets to experience on stage. He loves that feeling and also the experience of dancing so many female roles that he otherwise would not have the opportunity to perform, such as Giselle which he recently premiered. “I can relate to the fragility and that she is naïve, and I love the romantic period so much,” he said.

Although Pretto said dancing en pointe is painful, he also described is as “a beautiful sensation.” And he added that “with the adrenaline and concentration you forget about how much your feet hurt.”

Pretto also had to get used to doing his own makeup. “It’s a long process to transform yourself into a ballerina,” he explained. But he prefers doing his own makeup now. “It allows you to portray the artist how you want to; we have our own image of a ballerina.”

His look has evolved over time and can also depend on his mood on a given day. “Everyone in the company likes that moment to calm down and concentrate,” he said. It’s their time to prepare themselves mentally for the show ahead.

One of Pretto’s favourite moments in the show is during his solo in Esmerelda when his partner brings an unidentified bottle of pills on stage. “I swallow one and go crazy,” said Pretto. “It gets a lot of laughs.”  

“It’s a very good show for every kind of audience,” said Pretto — frequent ballet-goers and the uninitiated alike will enjoy the humour and talent on display. “Some contemporary works are very dark and introspective, but it’s nice to go to the theatre and forget about your problems.”