The Trocks Are Reaching LGBTQIA Youth & Elders Through Dance
Over the last 40 years, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has become known for farcical versions of classical ballets, with the majority of the all-male company donning full drag, including hair, makeup, tutus and pointe shoes. But recently, the Trocks have found new purpose in an educational outreach program the company piloted this summer at advocacy organizations including the Ali Forney Center, which focuses on empowering homeless LGBTQIA youth and SAGE, which assists older LGBTQIA adults.
Artistic director Tory Dobrin explains the motivation for the recent venture: "Even though we are based in NYC, we haven't had much presence here for many years—our Joyce Theater season is only every two years. But when we hit 40, we realized that the Trocks do have a specific legacy and place in NYC's LGBT history, and it is one we can continue even when the company is on tour." Over the years, the company has been a beacon within LGBT culture, due to its emphasis on drag performance.
Trocks alum Roy Fialkow, along with current company members, have created a workshop that combines dance history, choreography and performance. Sometimes, they show videos as a crash course on dance history and to demonstrate the importance of individuality in dance. The workshops center on teaching a ballet warm-up, followed by choreography from "The Dying Swan."
Fialkow has a background as an adaptive physical education teacher, and is well-versed in teaching movement to participants with widely differing physical capabilities. He stresses the importance of a holistic approach and a physically and emotionally safe space, so participants feel comfortable experimenting with challenging choreography. In one case, a blind participant has been able to take part in the workshops, with the help of an additional educator to ensure safety.
Participants are encouraged to modify movements when appropriate; even observing from the sidelines and offering constructive feedback is considered a viable form of participation. Adventurous attendees may eventually flex their choreographic muscles as well, as workshop content expands to encompass subjects like dance-making and ballet mime.
The hope is that participants build a sense of community and trust during the workshops, and perhaps choose to incorporate more creativity in other areas of their lives, develop a new sense of self-worth or just enjoy using their mind and body in new ways. And the Trocks, in addition to teaching the choreography, make themselves available as a positive image within the LGBTQIA community, especially for their younger participants. "This is who we are. We haven't given up our identities, and we are making our way in the world like this. So, it gives them a positive role model," says Fialkow.
Dobrin says there is a possibility to expand the workshops: "We are hoping that we can take them to the communities where we tour. Eventually, we would like to have a structure in place where we can send someone out to do these workshops separate from the rest of the company. But we want to be sure we are doing it right, so for now, we are keeping it small."
You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.
A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:
After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.
By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
How do you make your athleisure collection stand out from the pack? Get the ultimate studio-to-street seal of approval by having dancers star in your campaign, of course.
For his second collaboration with activewear brand Carbon38, ready-to-wear designer Jonathan Simkhai traded in his usual top models like Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss for the original Hiplet dancers—and the resulting video is as cool as we'd expect from such a fierce collaboration.
Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:
Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time
In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can't learn something quickly. In today's world, we're used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.
I first started pulling out my eyelashes when I was 9, after removing fake ones at a dance competition. A few of my own eyelashes came out and I felt a new sensation. It hurt, but the prick also felt so good.
Eventually, I was pulling even when I was not wearing stage makeup, sometimes unaware of what I was even doing. It happened while I was reading or doing homework, or when I was sad or angry.
For the next five years, I secretly pulled my eyelashes, then moved to my eyebrows and eventually the back of my scalp. Finally, at 14, I told my mom what I had been doing and she took me to see a child psychologist. It turned out I had trichotillomania (a.k.a. "trich"), which is one of a group of behaviors known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors in which people repeatedly pull, pick, scrape or bite their hair, skin or nails.
Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.
In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.
Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet was huge news when it premiered last winter. The choreographer shifted the setting from the home of a well-off German family to the Chicago world's fair, making the hero the young daughter of a working-class, Polish immigrant sculptress. This month, WTTW Chicago, the city's public broadcasting station, will premiere Making a New American Nutcracker, a new documentary showing how Wheeldon and his high-profile collaborators made the magic happen. Premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com/watch on Nov. 16 before appearing on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings.
For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.
GLENN ALLEN SIMS
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT
Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain
Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."
Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.
The business side of dance can often fall second to the art. Contracts, which usually appear after you've done the hard work of securing a job, can seem like an inconsequential afterthought. You might decide to simply sign without reading the terms—or be understandably confused by all the legalese.
Ultimately, though, contracts can play an important part in setting the expectations for your job. A basic understanding of the legal terms you might see can go a long way in making sure that signing is a positive step toward growing your career.