WATCH: We meet the hairy chested ballerinas who move like swans
Cape Town - It's a chilly morning in the Mother City, and the lounge of the Table Bay hotel offers a cosy nook for a coffee and a chat with the stars of New York’s Les Ballets Eloelle troupe currently touring South Africa.
Artistic Director and lead dancer, Victor Trevino enters flanked by two ballerinas.
The dancers' hair is neatly coiffed in signature ballerina buns. Their make-up flawless with thick lashes fluttering. One has a shiny tiara firmly planted on their head. Chest hair protrudes from the tops of their tracksuits, while their large masculine hands clutch delicate hooped tutus.
Jonathan Mendez and Walter Battistini are part of the group of men from the all-male comedy ballet company currently performing Men in Tutus to crowds around the globe.
During the show the male dancers take on roles traditionally reserved for women – which is a task that's easier said than done.
According to Jonathan, a surprising challenge presented itself the first time he slipped on a tutu: "All of a sudden I couldn’t see my feet!" Replacing the usually firm-fitting tights with a giant tutu brought about its own challenge as the men struggled to get used to dancing without being able to watch their feet move.
(OH MAN! Walter Battistini, Victor Trevino, and Jonathan Mendez from Les Ballets Eloelle. Photo: Channel24)
Victor explains another interesting obstacle the dancers faced: "Men do not traditionally train in pointe shoes. We tend to be heavier, with our weight distributed differently to female dancers. Women generally begin training in dancing on pointe when they are young, about 11 years old, while men are not encouraged to do so, as there’s minimal opportunity to use that skill in classical dance."
Despite this and the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show, the dancers never undermine the complexity of the choreography and deliver exceptional quality performances that are thrilling to see on stage.
"Although we take on female personas the show is much more than just drag. It stays true to the core of the highly technical form of dance," Walter explains.
While Walter and Johnathan disappear to get into costume for a quick photo shoot with Table Mountain as the backdrop, Victor explains some more rarities behind the show. For example male dancers performing lead roles usually reserved only for female dancers as well as learning to dance with another male instead of a female: "When men partner with men there are several adjustments to make. You have to take into account the weight and physicality, and we need to learn how to be supported or lifted as we move."
Men in Tutus features dancers from the US, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Australian, Colombia, the Isle of Wight, and Japan.
Dates: 18 to 21 April 2019
Time: Thursday 20:00, Saturday 15:00 and 20:00, Sunday 14:00
Ticket prices: From R190
Venue: Opera House, Artscape