Muscular men en pointe and in tutus is just funny.
Who knows why? Maybe because it is so … unlikely.
There will be lots of time for analysis on Saturday when Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo take the stage in Centennial Hall. This company of men disguised as women has traveled the world for decades, getting their laughs while charming ballet aficionados and neophytes alike.
"We are one of ballet's greatest ambassadors," said Robert Carter, a dancer with the company for nearly 17 years, performing under the stage names Olga Supphozova and Yuri Smirnov.
"We do a family show. We reassure everybody you don't need to be stuffy to enjoy ballet," Carter added.
Eugene McDougle would agree. He's been the general manager since Trockadero first performed on Sept. 6, 1974, in a second floor loft theater on Manhattan's 14th Street, where McDougle worked.
"What struck me right from the very first performance - which sold out our little 100-seat theater - was that the audience was laughing at the jokes in the dancing, not at the dancers themselves," said McDougle. "They had booked the theater for one weekend, and had three sold-out shows. So they booked the next weekend and all three sold out again.
"That's when I volunteered to be their manager. I could see they had something. They told me 'Great!' They just wanted to dance, anyway."
So right from the very first night, there was always an emphasis on dance.
"To satirize dance, you must first know how to dance," said McDougle. "We are always very serious about being funny.
"In a way, it is like vaudeville, where those performers would practice the smallest gesture over and over until it was always perfect, and always looked spontaneous."
Taking their humor and their loving respect for ballet to more than 30 countries, as well as every one of the United States, has given these men ample opportunity to polish their perfection.
For today's young dancers joining the company, that journey begins with classical ballet training.
"Some can already dance in toe shoes and some can't, but all of them are ballet trained," said Carter. "We never have cattle call auditions. There are always lists of guys waiting for the opportunity."
Saturday's program for 16 dancers will include two takes on George Balanchine's stylistic choreography, another one inspired by classic Russian ballet during the Soviet period (with lots of nymphs, fauns and maidens) and, lest it be forgotten, the world of modern dance as expressed in the collaborations between Merce Cunningham and John Cage.
As for those crazy stage names the dancers have, Carter says the dancers don't get to pick their own names. Artistic Director Tory Dobrin keeps the master list. Dobrin gives every dancer a male and female name, according to their natural stage personality.
Some others who will be here are Sonia Leftova, Irina Kolesterolikova, Ida Nevasayneva , Nicholas Khachafallenjar, Mikhail Mypansarov and Marina Plezegetovstageskaya.
IF YOU GO
• What: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
• Presented by: UApresents.
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., University of Arizona campus.
• Tickets: $27-$42, with discounts available.
• Information, reservations: uapresents.org or 621-3341.
Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com