Men in toe shoes?
“There are a lot of guys already on point in ballet schools,” said Raffaele Morra, a long-time member of the all-male ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who is now one of the company’s ballet masters. “The minds of teachers have been opened.”
The company, which was founded in 1974 and is fondly known as “The Trocks,” will perform Friday at The Egg.
For those who haven’t seen the company, be prepared to view the second act of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” with new eyes. Dancers portray male and female roles in a humorous style that combines parodies of ballet yet shows off their technical skills.
While their pique turns and leaps are authentic, these are men. And unlike ballerinas, who start dancing en pointe in their early teens, men usually don’t get into toe shoes until they’ve already been dancing for years.
“Dancing en pointe strengthens the ankles and makes the muscles much longer,” Morra said. “I’d danced for years in Italy until I tried it for two years in toe shoes. I didn’t have so much trouble because my teachers had told me to rise up on my toes (without the shoes). Of course, the blisters and the hard box of the shoes took some getting used to.”
What caused him problems was wearing a tutu, which is that traditional bell-like ballet costume with a stiff skirt that projects horizontally from the waist.
“It caused the biggest stress,” Morra said. “I’d been a modern dancer and was used to wearing a leotard or even having a bare torso. I could always see what I could do. But what with being on the shoes, which was a bit painful, and that I could not see my legs — even though I knew it all would be different, it was scary.”
Fortunately, those days are long gone even for new members of the company, which numbers 18 men.
“Toe shoes have even evolved,” he said. “There are so many styles with some made of a plastic material that are sturdier and force the alignment and use a different type of toe padding.”
And manufacturers can accommodate any shoe size.
“Years ago we had problems finding big shoes,” Morra said with a laugh. “Now there are several companies that make them.”
Costumes are also custom made.
“We must look feminine but they must fit a male body,” he said. “We do not have a tiny waist. We’re more square, so we must find a way for the costume to look right.”
While Morra has been with the company since 2001 and there are two other dancers who joined in 1995, most of the current company joined less than seven years ago.
“We travel so much that we don’t have open auditions. So we invite guys to take class — we have class before every performance and try to hire dancers from the U.S. because it’s easier for visa purposes,” he said. “We see what kind of vibe they have.”
Besides having to possess a good technique on point and work as a corps dancer, dancers must have a comedic side especially to be able to laugh at themselves and they must be a team player, Morra said.
“We’re always touring together and share everything so we can’t have a diva offstage. It’s not pleasant,” he said. “We’re like a giant family and always have a good environment. We’re also the guests of whichever theater we’re in, so we must be on our best behavior.”
Among the dances they’ll perform tomorrow will be “Raymonda’s Wedding,” a Russian dance, and a Pas de 6 from “Esmeralda.”
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, April 20
WHERE: The Egg
HOW MUCH: $34
MORE INFO: (518) 473-1061; theegg.org