The art and politics of dancing in a frock

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“This job — it’s so much fun,” enthused Laszlo Major. “I mean, it’s really fun to work for this company.”

Of course, the three hours it takes to dress for work, plus the three hours to undress, can make for some long days. Every job, no matter how much fun, has its ups and downs — even when you’re a dancer for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

For those not in the know, Les Ballets Trockadero is a wildly popular touring dance company in which the ballerina roles are played by men, complete with full make-up and tutus. While the idea sounds funny — and it often is hilarious — make no mistake about it: these male ballerinas take the craft of classical ballet very seriously. There are some highly trained ballerinas up there who, despite sporting facial and chest hair, have to be able to line up and dance en pointe.

“After all,” said Major, “it’s not really funny if the dancing isn’t up to the highest standard.”

Born in Hungary, Major started studying dance seriously at the tender age of 14. It was during school that he became aware of Les Ballets Trockadero, and fell into an absolute lust to work for them.

“From an early age, I always wanted to dance en pointe,” he admitted.

Later in his teen years, Major gave up dancing for personal reasons. That hiatus lasted about four years. Fortunately, the allure of dance drew him back, and he snagged his first job by the time he was 21.

But he kept his eye on the prize — dancing for Les Ballets Trockadero. It took a couple of years and several tries before the stars aligned properly and he got his wish. He’s been with the company for about two years.

In addition to the long hours of prep in the dressing room, one of the biggest difficulties of life as a Trock is the constant travel. As a touring company, Les Ballet Trockadero is on the road nine to 10 months out of the year.

“Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining. I’m seeing some amazing places,” said Major. “But the company members are forced to live together without a lot of privacy, forcing a sort of closeness like a family. And occasionally, like a family, there can be strains.”

Given the current political climate in the country, one has to wonder if a show that upends gender expectations so outrageously runs into any problems on the road.

“We are going through something crazy in the states,” Major acknowledged, “but we’ve never had a problem, that I know of. A lot of people are scared that we’re slipping back to the bad old days.”

But Major sees the work of Les Ballets Trockadero as helping counter the rising tide of fear.

“I think we’re helping people come out. Closeted people who live in fear see a bunch of guys parading round unashamed in frocks, and maybe that inspires a bit of courage they otherwise wouldn’t have. I see us as ambassadors for being yourself.”

“Being yourself” is a rather ironic turn of phrase, since one of the conceits of the Trocks involves company members creating both male and female humorous, over-the-top performance identities that play different character roles. Major’s male stage name is Araf Legupski. His female persona’s name is Tatiana Youbetyoubootskaya.

But as many a drag queen has discovered over the years, sometimes a heavy coat of makeup and a frilly tutu can be the most direct route to the inner man. And watching a bunch of beefy guys in frilly frocks dancing “Swan Lake” could be revelatory, indeed.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will perform March 8-12 at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. There will be an LGBT Night performance March 9, with $10 off ticket prices with the online code THURS10.

For ticket information, call 215-636-9000 or visit dance affiliates.org.