Not knowing what to expect from this performance was probably an understatement. While I was aware of the world-famous Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male company that’s been performing classical ballet in drag and en pointe since 1974, I had never seen them, and there was no way to know how much or how little Ballet22, which was founded in 2020, would share with a group from an entirely different generation.
The good news is that no context, either from ballet or from the drag performance world, was necessary to enjoy these wonderfully charismatic and athletic dancers and their program. Keeping it light, and relatively short, meant that their Best of Ballet22 program was an ideal introduction to their approach. The first half featured three pieces from the classical ballet repertoire. Carlos Caballero Hopuy and Lucas Ataide came out first with the pas de deux from Giselle, Act II. It turns out that Hopuy is a veteran of the Trocks, and he established both the seriousness and the fun of the way this group dances en pointe immediately. He returned with Evan Ambrose and Roberto Vega Ortiz for an excerpt from Carmen in the next number. Part one of the program wrapped with Ataide joined by Brian Gephart and Daniel R. Durrett for a spirited adaptation of the Three Odalisques from Le Corsaire.
After the intermission, things really got going when Ballet22 switched over to contemporary material. The first two pieces, scored to Vivaldi and Bach respectively, showed how vivid and distinctive the group’s movement could be, and how powerful Brian Gephart is as a solo performer. The final work, Heartbeats, was set to original contemporary music and brought the whole ensemble onstage for sizzling choreography from Myles Thatcher. Thanks to Center Stage for booking this unusual company, and to Nikolay, the Moscow-based manufacturer of pointe shoes, for sponsoring the tour.
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