It’s Trocks Blog time again! This week we here from Chris (AKA Colette Adae), dancer in Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo! The boys have now left London and are touring across the country (en pointe of course!) Chris is filling us in on his gossip from their time in London, their week off and where they’ve been since leaving the capital!
Chris… Take it away!
In my time here with Trockadero, here was the first time I had landed with the company at Heathrow Airport and was actually able leave the building! Because we had come to stay rather than just be here for a connecting flight, and I finally could let the excitement of being in London rush over me. Hello, UK Tour!
When we arrived to our hotel, the first thing László and I did was drop off our bags in the room before we headed out to King’s Cross to explore our first time the city. At the station, a few Trocks of course took the opportunity to take photos at Platform 9 3/4 from Rowling’s Harry Potter and were even “sorted” into houses by the attendant who would accessorize guests in a scarves (I was a Slytherin). László and I took the Tube and the first place we went to was Picadilly Circus because we heard it was near SoHo and we wanted to see the nightlife atmosphere for the upcoming weeks. We were thrilled to see how many posters were up advertising Trockadero at The Peacock Theater along the way and it proved for a great turnout for our two-week run in London. When we got to Picadilly, I immediately felt the tourist energy and was reminded of the New York Times Square bustle. I also looked to see what shows were playing on the West End and made note of what performances I wanted to see on our week off. We walked around seeing China Town, making our way into SoHo and got fro-yo before heading back to settle in.
The following day, László and I met up with one of his Hungarian friends who was now living in London as a theatre manager in Oxford Circus. We enjoyed a nice coffee and together made a walk toward Pineapple Studios where the Trocks would be having our ballet classes to warm up before our evening performances. The studios were in Covent Garden on Langley Street and we walked in to take a peek before we were to start work on Monday. All types of dance classes were going on from hip hop to contemporary when we arrived and it was nice to get introduced to the space we would be at for the next two weeks. From the variety of classes offered and the advertisements and flyers on the walls, it looked like Pineapple was a major dance hub in London.
On Sunday I had to run some errands to find pieces for my costume I was making for our Trock’s Disney Night in London so I found a few fabric stores were on a street called Brick Lane. László and I got off at the Liverpool Station and made our way to the fabric shop. Along the way to Brick Lane, we noticed a tent that had been set up with live music and where about fifteen couples were afternoon tango dancing. It was very unexpected yet exciting to see the participants furiously turn then slink around the dance floor in the middle of the day (my favorite duo was an amorous couple in their 70s).
Moving onward toward Brick Lane, we also walked through a square by Commercial Street where what looked like a hundred or so vendors were selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and art. Some fun things for sale were entire works of fiction (including Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, The Wizard of Oz and Greek Mythology) printed as posters, jewelry made from Lego characters, and a booth that sold dresses made from vintage neckties!
Arriving at our destination, László and I made it to one of the fabric stores I found online. He picked up some white fur for his costume and luckily I was able to find the exact color teal ribbon I needed for mine! Our appetites were up so we needed to find somewhere to eat. We walked toward the crowd up the street and saw people all huddled on the sidewalk, their heads buried in meals in their laps. We came to the right spot.
On the corner, we came to The Old Truman Brewery, and what looked like this weekend, was full of booths selling international cuisine. There was Cuban, Thai, Italian, German but because it is one of my favorite dishes and I had been craving it from the Trock’s last tour, I opted for Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes (László ordered a savory meat crepe from another booth). I was even able to order in Japanese which was fun and the vendors weren’t expecting but were pleased to speak. We also ran into our wardrobe manager, Ryan who had gotten lunch from the booths as well and was out with some friends now living in the city.
After eating, László and I walked down some stairs into a vintage/retro clothing shop right next to the corner where we had gotten our lunch. We mostly perused around and window shopped but I did return the following week to pickup a few trinkets and articles that caught my eye. Interestingly enough, when I did return the following week, the Brewery that was used for food selling had now turned into a space for an interior design expo full of sleek modern furniture! Also along Brick Lane, we walked into a few more vintage clothing stores and pop-up boutiques.
I also ventured to Camden Town with László, Carlos Renedo, and Chase where we were hoping to catch a drag show but unfortunately it was starting later than we anticipated so instead we walked up and down the street looking at the shops. I mostly enjoyed the huge sculptures of shoes, dragons and piercing rings advertising the shops inside. It reminded me of a shop called Piedmont in San Francisco on Haight Street that features a giant stilettoed leg. We also managed to scout out great additions to our costumes here, László would return later to pickup white wings for his costume. It soon became dinner time so we went in search of a Nando’s because it was one of Chase’s favorite restaurants and being a fan of Taylor Swift, he had also heard it was her’s as well. It was my first experience and I loved how flavorful the Portuguese peri peri was and the chicken was cooked well too. When we weren’t dining out, the company got very familiar with Tesco and M&S’s Meal Deals.
On one of the days prior to our performance, the Trocks were invited to an open orchestra rehearsal of Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. What an honor! The Trocks met in the gift shop where we got to oogle the ballet merchandise (Trockadero DVDs, and Swarovski opera glasses among the goods) before being escorted through backstage to our seats. We received casting sheets for the afternoon’s rehearsal and Steven McRae was to dance Romeo with Sarah Lamb in the role of Juliet. We were once again reminded that because the rehearsal was for the orchestra, the attending audience was asked to please not applaud as it could drown out the conductor’s notes to his ensemble. This proved a bit difficult as we did want to show our enthusiasm for the company’s fantastic dancing with our applause. McRae portrayed Romeo with boyish abandon while still executing MacMillan’s choreography crisply and Lamb radiated as a delicate infatuated young girl in love for the first time. After the rehearsal, the opera house was able to show their appreciation when the company took their bows. Alberto was especially excited as he had an original illustration he had done of Sarah Lamb in “La Fille Mal Gardée” and he was lucky enough to present it to her when we went backstage. Even after an emotional draining run, Sarah was kind enough to take a picture with him. All of us who attended, left inspired by Royal’s rehearsal for our own performance that evening.
Our performances at The Peacock were received extremely well with super boisterous and responsive audiences and we even got ourselves a five stars review in The Times! As our great reviews kept pouring in, so did the many guests and ballet stars we were honored to meet and have visit backstage. A few included Gillian Newson (who was our Trockadero manager for 15 years at IMG Artists), TV star Bonnie Langford, Graham Sheffield (whom also got into drag for charity and made an appearance for two performances in our Don Q), and ballet stars Momoko Harata, Irek Mumhamedov, Doreen Wells, Leanne Benjamin, along Kenneth MacMillan’s widow, Deborah MacMillan. It was marvelous to have their support and love and to hear them talk about how much they respected our place in the ballet world. I am so very lucky to be here in this company at this time with this specific group of talented friends and I am so proud of the work we put in together to achieve a performance that touches many who come to see us do what we love. Timing is everything and now is a wonderful time to be part of Trockadero.
One very special person I had met while at our run at the Peacock was a little boy who came to our performance with his mother. He was seven years old and as the Trocks would exit the stage door his mother asked us one by one if we could please autograph his program. I saw how happy he was to have us sign for him so I asked if he enjoyed our show. He politely replied, “Very much. I especially like Swan Lake and I’ve seen it ten times!” Ten times?! We hadn’t even had those many performances in London! I asked him how he’d seen it that many times and he said that he puts it on YouTube at his Mom’s house.
He then said to me that even though we were men and were supposed to be funny, what people should realize was that we were doing REAL ballet and it was really hard! I was taken back by this little boy and how articulate he was and how much he was truly seeing the work in our craft aside from just the entertainment aspect. I had to ask his mother if had taken any dance she had told me he had just started ballet and was taking three days a week.
I was extremely pleased to hear as I could already see that ballet was something this little boy was passionate about and knew enough about at his early age. I was even more touched to see that his mother was supporting him and taking him to see us live. I wished him luck with his ballet and told him that if he worked hard, he could do anything that he wanted to do. It was such a beautiful moment and I look forward to his future in dance. Maybe one day he’ll be a Trock!
On our week off, Josh, Duane and I took in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Gypsy”. Imelda Staunton, actress from film Vera Drake, TV’s Little Britain, and who you may recall as the deliciously wicked Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter movie franchise, was billed as ultimate stage-mom, Mama Rose. I’ve been wanting to see this production since its revival on Broadway in 2008 with Rose being played by Patti Lapone, but to see Staunton I knew would be as electric. Josh and I were also excited as this was Duane’s first introduction to this musical. With Rose’s demanding voice booming from the back of the theater matched with her steaming stampede down the aisle, this matriarch’s entrance was ready to bring the house down. And she did! So much so that after just one scene, the production’s stage manager had to come out onstage to tell us they were having a pause due to technical difficulty. Talk about a showstopper!
Once the show was back and up, Imelda let us have it! Staunton’s speech and mannerisms as Mama Rose were so authentically American grit, I was captured by her portrayal as desperate mother from Seattle ferociously determined to make her two daughter’s into stars at whatever the cost. Lying about their ages, stuffing her brunette girl’s hair under a platinum wig, and eventually pushing her child into burlesque, Rose was terrifying. I couldn’t help but draw parallel to our generation’s stage monster, Kris Jenner (mother of the Kardashian/Jenner clan). Though her Umbridge was prim in contrast to her brass Rose, Staunton did indeed deliver her maniac side so memorable from the Potter films.
I couldn’t believe she was taking her voice to this level eight shows a week but aside from her strong acting, I could hear her singing voice was impeccably well-carried, clear and trained as to not add any strain. While watching the performance, I couldn’t help but see similarities with our life on the road. Traveling around performing the Vaudeville circuit from one city to the next didn’t seem too far off from our lives with Trockadero and our rigorous tour schedule, and the glances at backstage life were nice to relate to as well. I was also thrilled to hear a few days later that this production of “Gypsy” was to be filmed for a broadcast then have a DVD release! It is one of the most treasured and powerful live performances I have witnessed in my lifetime. Following the performance, the three of us took a stroll along the Thames and saw Big Ben.
After seeing a classic musical, the next evening Josh and I went to see new musical, “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”. We’d heard the show had only one song from the Gene Wilder film we had grown up with but our main interest was to be visually stimulated by the sugary show. Arriving to the theatre, I was surprised to see the original songs were by team, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, responsible for the shimmy and shaking hits from Broadway and Major Motion Picture’s “Hairspray” (one of my favorite musicals of all time).
The production value of the show was a candy confection and with Warner Brothers Studios as the producer, they spared no expense. The opening scene of Charlie standing on top of a gigantic heep of garbage with Wonka’s factory behind him was immediately striking and as the show progressed, each set seemed to get more and more elaborate. In Act I, when each child who had found a Golden Ticket was revealed, a huge television screen entered from upstage and its screen would open to a miniature set of where the newscast was supposed to be filming from. Genius idea! What also was inventive was each child had their own genre of music (Polka, Classical, Pop and Metal) as their motif. I thought the quick lyrics and music style similar to Sondheim as they were quite character driven and involved much wordplay adding a nice whimsical tone on the musical.
When it came to Act II inside Wonka’s Factory, the production had more 21st century technology and projection became a main character when it came to quick scene changes and visual effects. I enjoyed the blend of old and new and it added relatable medium for the modern family audience.
Another imaginative part of the musical was how the Oompa Loompa’s were costumed. Because they were actors of average height and the Oompas are shorter, in one scene the Oompa Loopma’s were be played by two actors with the help of some puppetry. With one in the front being the face and tiny legs while an actor behind would be the Oompa’s arms this illusion was achieved. Other clever ideas for them included having the Oopma Loompa’s in moon-boot platform shoes with the lower leg of the actor as the shoe or one of my favorite moments, the Oompa Loopma’s “riding” on top of squirrels to perform a ballet as they shoved Veruca Salt down the trash chute. Overall, it was a fantastic show to see! I often go to the theater and see different types of performing arts as sometimes watching ballet still feels like I am working, absorbing and analyzing rather then an escape and being entertained. Josh and I later walked back to Leicester Square and stumbled upon a pub called The White Swan. Ballet will always find a way to have the last word.
On our final night in London, the Trock’s had our Disney Night! Among the characters we had our Classic Princesses and Heroines (Ariel, Belle, Cinderella and Alice), Faithful Sidekicks (Pegasus from Hercules), Pixar Friends (Finding Nemo’s Dory), Villains (Evil Queen, Cinderella’s Stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia Tremaine) and even the main mouse himself, Mickey. We all met in the lobby for a quick photo shoot and then headed out to G-A-Y Late. When we arrived, we saw the line that had extended down the block and we had decided that it’d be best to find another venue as we wanted to start getting on groove on and some of our costumes were also quite huge or had long trains. What was hilarious though was it probably took about half an hour to even leave the front of the club because we were being asked by partygoers in the line and passerby’s to pose for pictures with them as if we were the costumed characters at a Theme Park!
We finally Disney Paraded our way to SoHo and came to The Shadow Lounge on Brewer Street. Now, I don’t know how this happens, but coincidentally the Trocks have a habit of showing up at a club at their Launch Party and this was the first night of The Shadow Lounge’s “The Glitter Bomb”. This had also happened to us back in Madrid when we decided to dress up and go to a club that happened to be launching their new weekly party, “Pobrecita”. We somehow ended up being invited on the venue’s stage, dancing for the club crowd and taking photos with Eliad Cohen, the promoter and a prominent gay figure and model who had co-founded a gay-friendly travel site, Gay-Ville.com.
Back in London, we made our way onto the dancefloor of The Shadow Lounge. Throughout the evening, guests would come up to our characters asking for photos and some would even geek out and spill how much they loved “us” and how often they’d seen our movies. It was very sweet seeing that our costumes were bringing out fond memories and we got to have some really magic moments with these complete strangers who felt like they grew up with us. I maybe might’ve gone so far as to stay in Stepsister mode the whole evening but I loved not breaking character.
Though London was great to us, the time had come to head to our next city. The following day we travelled a six-hour bus ride to Newcastle to perform two evenings at the Theatre Royal. The Trocks also had the luxury of enjoying their newly renovated backstage and dressing rooms that had been redone in 2012 for the theatre’s 175th anniversary and they were quite fun, the green room having a foosball table. The raked stage brought me back to our Italian tour but by the second evening, I barely even noticed. I also much enjoyed crossing over the bridge and seeing the architecture of the city’s past and its more current additions.
We have just finished our shows at Southampton’s Mayflower and are now in Canterbury which I am absolutely in love with. When we arrived, a group of us dropped our things off in the room and made our way to a nearby movie theater that was showing the live stream of Bolshoi’s “Giselle” with Svetlana Zakharova as the lead. The theater was completely darling with a lobby fashioned after a mid-century study and the theater itself was very modern with mod reclining chairs. We took our seats, I with my Gin Spritz, and we were ready to enjoy the ballet. It was incredible to watch the performance knowing many ballet lovers around the world were getting to do the same thing.