Life as a dancer in the world’s foremost all-male drag ballet company

Imagine a ballet, but make it all-male, and drag, and you have the dazzling, hilarious show of the high-powered dance troupe that is Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlos.

When you think of a ballet, you might imagine a lithe woman dancing across a stage on the tips of her toes. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlos is kind of like that, but instead, it’s an all-male company in drag.

Les Ballets Trockadero is “the world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company,” a high-powered dance troupe established in 1974 in New York. Dancers originally came together as a part of the gay liberation movement and have performed all over the world.

The company is is making its return to Vancouver for a one-night show on Feb 1, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Audience members will get to enjoy Walpurgisnacht, a contemporary Russian style piece, as well as more traditional Swan Lake, Pas de Quatre, and Dying Swan.

Cold Tea Collective had the opportunity to speak with Les Ballets Trockadero dancer, Haojun Xie, as he begins his second season dancing with the world-famous ballet company. 

The all-male cast of Les Ballet Trockadero, dressed in their tutus and pointe shoes, posing for the camera.
Les Ballets Trockaderos.
Photo Credit: Zoran Jelenic

What to expect from Les Ballets Trockaderos

Les Ballets Trockadero, or “The Trocks” for short, is a touring dance group that performs classical ballets such as Swan Lake, Tarantella, and Go for Barocco among many others, but with a twist: the programs are performed by a cast of all-male ballet dancers in drag and infused with a heavy dose of comedy. The performances marry powerful movements with the feminine grace of ballet and the hilarity of sketch comedy. 

But what makes the show truly special is its broad appeal, its ability to cross any language or cultural barrier and connect with universal audiences. The show dazzles with beautiful costumes and makeup and leaves you in stitches regardless of your familiarity with ballet.

Xie attributes the show’s appeal to the the technique of the company, the show quality, and the jokes — so come prepared to laugh.

Variety separates Les Ballets Trockadero from the rest

In ballet, there are traditionally defined male and female roles and only female ballerinas are allowed to dance en pointe: on the tips of the toes. What attracted Xie to the company was the opportunity to stretch himself outside the traditional confines of the craft. 

“We get to perform so many different pieces: Paquita, Barocco, The Little Humpback Horse. All of the ballets are different and all of the styles are different. Some are slow and others are very fast, and I get to dance en pointe which doesn’t happen in other companies,” said Xie. 

Since joining the company, Xie has had an absolutely magical time getting to see different countries including Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and Thailand, and experiencing different sights and cuisines.

Haojun Xie as Maya Thickenthighya, dressed in a white tutu, with white gloves, complete with show makeup and hair, posed gracefully and smiling into the distance.
Haojun Xie as Maya Thickenthighya.
Photo Credit: Zoran Jelenic

However, life as a “Trock” quickly becomes exhausting when you factor in performances on top of travel, plus their grueling rehearsal schedule; Trockadero dancers rehearse five days a week for eight hours a day, with more training on top of that if they dance en pointe because it is much more difficult.

Luckily, Xie is no stranger to hard work, bringing with him a lengthy dance background starting at the Beijing Dance Academy learning Russian Style ballet and dancing in the Shanghai Ballet Company before joining the Joffrey Ballet School to train in more classical American style ballet, then the Columbia Classical Ballet Company before joining the Trockadero in 2018. 

A built-in home away from home

Being a Trock is truly like being a part of a big family. Not only do dancers come from all over the world — America, China, Japan, Cuba, and Spain — but they rehearse daily for eight hours a day and tour the world together. Xie says there’s no drama to report.

“We really like each other, we joke around with each other, talk to each other and the director and ballet manager make us feel like a big family. They make it feel like we’re at home, it’s very nice,” said Xie.    

Last year, the Trocks toured in Asia stopping in Thailand and Japan. Xie isn’t able to confirm future tour plans but when asked about potentially performing for family and friends, Xie said that he is excited but more nervous because he feels that he would be representing his country.

Despite the nerves, Xie truly hopes that one day he will be able to go back to China to perform and to show his family what he’s been able to do and accomplish as a dancer. 

Haojun Xie as Nicholas Khachafallenjar, dressed in a princely blue and white costume, posing and looking up into the distance.
Haojun Xie as Nicholas Khachafallenjar.
Photo Credit: Zoran Jelenic

Breaking down traditional barriers, one en pointe step at a time

It’s highly unusual to see male ballerinas in drag, dancing across the stage in size 11 shoes. It’s also not easy.

“Your body and your balance changes because you use different muscles. It feels really different when you’re dancing a female piece,” said Xie.

The varied programming provides a wide range of styles for the Trocks to dabble in and to continue stretching, learning and developing their skills. 

More than that, not many other companies blend Russian, American, and contemporary ballet together so seamlessly or infuse each performance with humour for their audience’s enjoyment. It’s truly a special show that breaks down barriers in a world with such tradition, and you won’t want to miss it.

Catch Haojun Xie as Maya Thickenthighya and Nicholas Khachafallenjar in Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlos tomorrow, on Saturday, February 1, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. More info and tickets here.

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