By Richard Schultz, February 2017 Issue.
Early in his career, classically-trained dancer Alberto Pretto relished performing in world-class productions of timeless classics. Yet, something was missing.
“I felt constricted in just dancing the male roles. I wanted more artistic freedom,” Pretto explained, adding that he knew he found his calling when he began to study en pointe.
Upon joining Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in January 2011, Pretto found camaraderie in a troupe of male dancers who perform both male and female roles.
The world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company (affectionately known as The Trocks) has entertained audiences for more than 30 years while establishing itself as a major dance phenomenon throughout the world.
Putting a new spin on the art of dance, the 18-member company performs faithful renditions of the most celebrated works – from romantic ballets such as Swan Lake to the modern masterpieces of Martha Graham – fabulously costumed and delicately balanced en pointe.
With grace, charm and pure comic genius, The Trocks playfully brings to life the heroic characters and plots of these great works on stages around the globe – including the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Jan. 26-27.
Pretto, who grew up playing sports in Italy, decided he wanted to study dance and started formal training at age 14. Admittedly, his parents were not “theater people” and did not understand his interest in dance – at first. In time, they became more supportive of his passion and undoubtedly proud of his accomplishments.
After studying at the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace, Monaco Montecarlo, Pretto danced with the English National Ballet in London and the Stadttheater Koblenz in Germany.
By dancing en pointe, which Pretto admits is tough, a new repertoire of roles opened up for him.
“Sometimes your feet swell and blisters are unavoidable,” he admitted. “There are injuries. Yet, you just push through it all and perform because that’s the life of a ballerina.”
When Pretto initially auditioned for The Trocks, there were no openings in the company. But within a few months an opening occurred and Pretto found his calling with the world-famous ballet company.
As part of the The Trocks tradition, each dancer has two onstage personas; Pretto’s two characters are Nina Immobilashvili and Stanislas Kokitch.
For more years than she cares to admit, Nina has been the Great Terror of the international ballet world. The omniscient and ubiquitous Nina is reputed to have extensive dossiers on every major dance figure, living and/or dead. This amazing collection has assured her entree into the loftiest choreographic circles; the roles she has thus been able to create are too numerous to mention.
Stanislas Kokitch, known as “The Forgotten Man” of ballet, is hardly ever mentioned in reviews by critics or in discussions by devoted balletomanes despite having created several important roles in now forgotten ballets. He is the author of “The Tragedy of My Life,” an autobiography that’s not at all reliable.
Pretto relishes the humor that is part of every performance.
“As we learn the choreography, we know where the jokes will be,” he said. “Yet, often in rehearsal, something will happen spontaneously and then that gets incorporated into the performance.”
Ahead of his upcoming Arizona performances, Pretto emphasized that The Trocks is for everyone, and makes a great family outing.
“Our performances are a great way to introduce audience members who are new to ballet. For dance aficionados, they appreciate our technical expertise while enjoying our distinctive approach to classical ballets like Giselle and La Esmeralda,” he said “Kids just love the show. They don’t have the filters like adults. So, the kids enjoy the humor and the spectacle.”
The makeup and costumes are key elements in each performance, and Pretto confessed that it takes him about 45 minutes to apply the makeup. At first, it took him longer, but he now has it down to a routine that includes highly-stylized stage makeup, long eyelashes and wigs.
The company, Pretto explained, is comprised of gay men who range greatly in age and dance experience. The larger dancers often provide the support for lifts and other physical feats. Many of the dancers have been with the company for more than 20 years.
With performances in more than 23 countries in six years under his belt, Pretto said he hopes for a long career with The Trocks.
“There’s still a few more roles that I look forward to dancing in the future,” Pretto said. “I just love it all.”
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale
Tickets: $35-$69; 480-499-8587