It takes a healthy respect, knowledge and love of ballet to make fun of it.
That’s what Alberto Pretto wants audiences to know before they see him and the rest of his Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo dancers perform Friday at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma.
The all-male company that dances female and male roles has been performing their particular brand of ballet since 1974. Based in New York City, the non-profit group has won fans all over the world for their comedic interpretations of ballet and for sending up ballet’s conventions.
Pretto, a native of Italy, joined the company five years ago. The newspaper caught up with him before a performance in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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Q: You play two characters, Nina Immobilashvili and Stanislas Kokitch. Nina, as I understand it, blackmailed her way into the company.
A: Everyone in the company plays a female and male character. Of course, the female character is more fun to play for me. I actually do not have any files on anyone.
Q: I know it’s rude to ask a lady how old she is but since you’re a lady only part time …
A: I am 29.
Q: What is your dance background?
A: I started late, at 14 years old. No one in my family did ballet. It took a while to get my parents to bring me to ballet school. I studied four years in my hometown, Vincenza. Then I moved to Monte Carlo where I studied and graduated from Academie de Danse Classique. After that, I got a job with the English National Ballet in London. Then I danced in Germany for two years. After that I felt the need to do something different and be challenged and dance more interesting roles.
Q: Are all of the Trockadero dancers as trained as you are?
A: We almost all come from ballet. But some people are Broadway or contemporary (dancers).
Q: Are you dancers, comedians, something else?
A: I am first a ballet dancer, but on top of that we are actors in the comedy field. Most of it is dancing. When the Trockaderos first started, it was mostly people interested in ballet but not trained in it. We love ballet so much, we want to make fun of it in a certain way. We bring it to the excess so it becomes funny.
Q: So it’s a show for ballet lovers and those who have never been to the ballet?
A: Definitely. It’s a ballet performance, but it’s performed by men dressed up as female characters. It’s good for someone who might be bored by regular ballet. It’s a great way to approach it because you can have a laugh at it and see it in a different angle.
Q: For those that have seen the Trockaderos already, will they see a new show in Tacoma?
A: If we have been to the city the year before, we try to bring a new program so people won’t see the same thing twice. We are a repertory company so we can switch it up. But we’ll open up with “Swan Lake” and then some pas de deux or pas de trois, and then end the show with another spectacular ballet.
Q: How long does it take you to get in full lady gear and makeup?
A: We have a ballet class at the barre. Maybe a little rehearsal for the space. And then the makeup process takes an hour. Then there is hair and costume. It’s about five hours before the performance.
Q: Do some people come to the show not knowing what’s under those tutus?
A: Some people don’t know. Some dancers are more androgynous than others. I’ve heard many times, “I can’t believe that was a man. I thought that was a woman.” The joke comes when we show we’re not women. We use more power and jump higher like a man would do. We do dainty little steps that look funny on a 6-foot-tall man. But with the makeup we can fool people. A little bit.
Q: Is there a gay sensibility to the show?
A: There is because all the dancers in the company are gay. But it’s not the message we are giving. We are just bringing entertainment and sharing dance with the audience no matter who they are. They should expect to have a great time, leaving the theater with a smile on their faces.