It was one of the greatest entrances of all time: Montreal drag queens Mado Lamotte (so-called when she started her career at Poodles on the Main back in 1987 because patrons there thought she looked like a mutt) and Madame Simone waited until the last possible moment to step into their private loge at Place des Arts to see Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo some years ago, just before the red curtain went up.
Then the 3,000 people in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier turned their heads to watch Mado and Madame Simone – who resembled Marie Antoinette, Queen of France during the French Revolution – and let out a collective gasp.
It was like a command performance.
But when it comes to entrances, no one beats Les Ballets Trockadero, or "Les Trocks" as they are more affectionately known. Back in the 1980s, during a performance at UCLA, the curtain actually fell onto the stage!
"We were in the middle of a dance from Don Quixote and the curtain fell and half of us could have been killed!" says Les Trocks artistic director Tory Dobrin, who originally joined the company as a 26-year-old dancer back in 1980. "Boom! It nearly took out the front row! Dust was flying all over. It was pretty funny, actually. The crew just picked up the curtain, we dusted ourselves off and started again!"
Les Trocks were officially founded back in September 1974 when the company’s first-ever performance was held in a second storey loft theatre (filled with about 100 folding chairs) on 14th Street in NYC’s meat-packing district.
Since then Les Trocks have played most of the great theatres in the Western Hemisphere, as well as across Europe, Australia and Asia, where they have done 26 national tours of Japan alone.
While they make headlines wherever they go, they aren’t exactly rolling in the dough. "You don’t go into the dance world thinking you’re going to make a fortune," Dobrin says. "We have a limited amount of resources. Sometimes our credit card bill reaches close to $100,000! Is that scary? Oh yeah!"
The day after Dobrin auditioned as a dancer back in 1980, he was immediately hired and next day flew with the company for a stint in Brazil. But back then young male dancers didn’t think of Les Trocks as a dance company of choice.
"When I joined the company people asked me, ‘Why are you doing that? It will ruin your career!’ Today guys are now auditioning for the company right out of Juilliard! Les Trocks is now considered an acceptable career choice for a dancer."
That doesn’t mean straight male dancers are auditioning for Les Trocks, however. In other words, there is still some stigma attached to being a dancer for Les Trocks. After all, many folks still think they’re a bunch of dancers in drag.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. And just because pretty much everybody in the company is gay doesn’t mean there’s a lot of drama backstage either.
"We’re all gay guys [but] there are no frayed nerves backstage, there is no drama – we don’t allow it," Dobrin insists. "We hire people who tend to be eccentric characters and when you put together a group of 15 individual personalities, you really need everyone to respect everybody else to make it work."
Essential buttplug Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo perform at Place des Arts’ Salle-Wilfrid Pelletier on Feb. 8.