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Originally published Monday, May 13, 2013 at 5:05 AM

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The Trocks: Comic ballet troupe tiptoes into Seattle

An interview with Paul Ghiselin, who performs with the comic ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero, which returns to Meany Hall on Thursday, May 16, 2013.

Seattle Times arts writer

Dance preview

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Meany Hall, University of Washington campus; $51-$55, $20 students (206-543-4880 or www.meany.org).

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“Either women are getting bigger feet, or the Trocks have affected the shoe industry,” said longtime Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo member Paul Ghiselin, aka Ida Nevasayneva, asked where the company gets their stock of man-sized pointe shoes. “It used to be that we could only get our shoes by special order, but nowadays for some reason a lot of the shoe companies are making shoes to fit most of the guys. They are a stock size.”

Expect big shoes and big laughs when the Trocks return to Meany Hall this week for three performances, starting Thursday. The all-male company, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, is noted both for its comedic ability and its impressive classical technique, used in ballets created by noted choreographers (such as Petipa’s “Swan Lake” — with some added Trocks touches) or inspired by them (“Patterns in Space,” based on movements typical of Merce Cunningham).

The Trocks once had an actual Cunningham piece in their repertoire, said Ghiselin, but the Cunningham people “came and saw it and decided they didn’t like Trockadero doing Merce Cunningham, so we created our own.”

The company’s 17 dancers (the current roster comes from the U.S., Italy, Colombia, South Africa, Cuba, Spain and France) each has two Trock personas: a male and a female. All have backgrounds in classical ballet — and all, to become a Trock, had to learn to dance on pointe; something ballerinas learn from a young age, but male dancers typically do not.

Ghiselin, who danced for many years with the Ohio Ballet, said that he thought that the Trocks would be a nice change for the late stage of his career — that he’d “go out having some fun.” Joining the company in 1995, he remembered being “scared to death” in his early days of pointe work. “It was like walking on stilts,” Ghiselin said. “I thought, this must be what that big giant clown feels like walking around in the circus.”

But ultimately, he said, the body adapts — “it’s like a tool, anyone can use a tool. Your feet are built to hold your weight; you just have to develop new muscles and a different way of carrying yourself.” Nowadays, he said, a lot of new Trocks arrive having already learned to dance on pointe. “They come into the company pretty much ready to go.”

Ghiselin’s alter ego, Ida Nevasayneva, whose specialty is an exceptionally molten Dying Swan (“She takes herself very, very seriously,” said Ghiselin, noting that Ida’s bows are as long as the dance itself) won’t be dancing in Seattle, but some other Trock ballerina — perhaps Marina Plezegetovstageskaya? Or Lariska Dumbchenko? — will take on the role. Also planned for the Meany performance: “Go for Barocco” (a la Balanchine), “Patterns in Space,” “Walpurgis Night” (“a great Soviet-era campfest,” said Ghiselin), and a trimmed-down version of “Swan Lake,” complete with some very spotlight-ready swans.

It’s all delivered with the troupe’s trademark combination of chest hair and tutus, of ballerinas in “very, very good moods tonight” (the traditional Trock curtain announcement) — and with comedy that’s always on point.

“One of the phrases that we have in the company that we use quite often, and I feel very adamant about is, you must have poise at all times. This means, no matter what the world serves you, you want to appear that you are in control, and you are not going to be given into hysteria, because you were showing poise at all times.” Ghiselin paused, and added, “That sounds very much like Ida.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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