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Keep on Trockin': Ballet Trockadero dances through Chicago Feb. 11
by Matt Simonette
2023-02-10

This article shared 3660 times since Fri Feb 10, 2023
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Performer Duane Gosa admits that going to the ballet can sometimes be intimidating for some audiences. But he is quick to reassure that the audience for his particular dance troupe—New York City-based Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo or, the "Trocks"—has nothing to worry about.

"It's a fun show," Gosa, a Chicago native who now calls Brooklyn home, explained. "This show really opens [ballet] up to all audiences—all types of people, demographics, ages. It becomes something you can easily enjoy and easily understand."

Chicagoans will have the opportunity to see for themselves when the all-male troupe plays the Auditorium Theater, 50 East Ida B. Wells Dr., the evening of Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Gosa dances two key roles in the performance: ballerina Helen Highwaters and danseur Vladimir Legupski. There is always kind of a meta aspect to a Trocks performance, since Gosa and his colleagues are interpreting the roles of performers interpreting their dance roles.

"It feels a little bit more light-hearted," Gosa said. "If you do make a mistake in a rehearsal, you're not so anxious about trying to cover it up. Maybe that mistake can turn into something that works onstage. You can take those mistakes and use them, or try to act your way out of it, rather than trying hard to hide something."

Director Tory Dobrin describes it as "very high-level dancing and very high-level comedy…The most important element is for the audience to enjoy themselves—and they usually do."

The Trucks haven't performed at the Auditorium in many years, so Dobrin assembled a greatest-hits program from the Trocks' repertoire for the Feb. 11 performance, he said.

As director, it is Dobrin's job to set the tone for the Trocks' performances and performers. He admitted that's not an easy job managing a troupe with myriad personalities and sensibilities, but he likened the Trocks' organization to a "mom-and-pop store," with just a handful of individuals responsible for numerous logistical duties.

Dobrin usually matches new performers with their names and dance personae. Usually when a dancer is hired, there is not enough time for them to develop their own characterizations, so Dobrin has a veritable stock company of characters to choose from.

"I have a library on my computer," he explained. "I go through and I kind of feel out who that person is, and I pick a name that suits them. We bring in new names all the time, but I like to keep the older names around too. I'm really into the continuity of the past into the present. … I talk a lot about the past and where we're coming from so that the younger generation of dancers know that it didn't just start with them—[the Trocks] started in 1974."

Dobrin began as a performer with the Trocks in 1980.

"It's kind of indicative of my personality—I'm someone who just kind of goes with the flow," he said. That year, he was in a dance class with someone who'd danced with the Trocks and knew that the troupe was looking for performers for a tour in South America. "I went and I was hired—it was as simple as that."

Dobrin added, "My aunt was a PR person in Los Angeles and did their PR [there]. … So I was aware of the company already, and the tour in South America was super-fascinating."

Gosa came to the Trocks about 10 years ago. He had been dancing in New York for several years and had in fact stopped doing ballet because "I was really over the role of a traditional male dancer. I felt like I didn't have the characteristics and qualities to be that great at it—I wasn't that strong."

But he was tempted to audition for the Trocks when he saw an opening come up, and he was quickly hired.

"I looked forward to being in a queer space," Gosa recalled. "Growing up in dance, you are around a lot of females, so you don't really have that kind of space to connect with people. I remember being really excited to work in a queer male environment."

At the time of his hiring, Gosa was also excited for the chance at full-blown drag. "Everyone has done it for Halloween…It's close, but not close enough. I knew I could do that better. I was excited to be in an environment where people are really skilled at this…I've changed so much being in a group like this."

He called Helen Highwaters a mix of Lucille Ball and Regina King: "She is very subtle—not over-the-top—but somebody who commands your attention with a variety of facial expressions. She is also Black—trying hard to be a Black ballerina on the stage."

He likened Vladimir Legupsky, meanwhile, as a "macho Disney prince"—someone who parodies the cavalier masculine dancer's qualities Gosa years ago had been made to feel he was lacking. Legupsky has "a big, puffed-up chest, and is really arrogant, with a coiffed wig."

Gosa was eagerly anticipating returning to Chicago for the Feb. 11 performance. He was born in the Windy City, and though he left at a young age, he spent numerous summers there as a youngster.

"I have so much family there who hasn't had a chance to see me perform, so I'm really excited to be there," he said.


This article shared 3660 times since Fri Feb 10, 2023
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