Lariska Dumbchenko, aka Raffaele Morra; www.trockadero.org
Important lesson: take your work seriously, but not yourself. Prima ballerina assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn is quoted as having said this, as are scores of others. I heard it again earlier today during a conversation with Raffaele Morra, who was visiting the ballet school where I teach this morning ahead of a pair of weekend performances with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. They are a sixteen-member all-male comedic ballet troupe who dress in drag (yes, they wear pointe shoes and dance in them like nobody’s business) and perform ridiculous and satirical versions of ballets, most of them long established in the classical canon. The Trocks, as they are commonly known, are also beautifully trained men; their brand of performing reaches beyond mere onstage hamming around—which they do to a fault—to include impeccable classical technique.
I saw it this morning in Raffaele’s master class. But beyond technique he urged the sweaty roomful of dancers whose attention he held for an hour and a half to add something to their classroom work, to enjoy what they are doing, for the sake of the audience. As part of this mandate he taught them a variation from the French classic Paquita, which the company will perform tonight and tomorrow night on the stage at Dartmouth’s HOP Center for the Arts. Then, he showed them how the Trocks do it. I am not sure I have seen so many smiles during a master class, nor heard so much giggling, ever.
Smile, I often tell my students in class. If you are not having fun, why bother at all? Raffaele took this a step further today and said, teach your students to act. And do it while they are young, before they develop adult inhibitions. It is good advice, and as the school director said today, the timing feels perfect. I could not agree more.
I leave you with a montage of Paquita, à la Trock: