Roy Fialkow, Education Manager of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, was a company member from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Mr. Fialkow’s ballerina name was Agrippina Proboskovna “La Borzoia.” During his time in the company he choreographed four ballets. The company is presently celebrating its forty-sixth year as the world’s foremost all-male comedic ballet company.
Located in New York City, the company is on PAUSE with the rest of the performing arts community. Mr. Fialkow is currently contributing online lessons to the newly created digital platform #TrocksAtHome which can be found on the Trocks website, trockadero.org. A recent lesson for #TrocksTakeoverTuesday was “The Swan.” This lesson was part of “Swan-o-Rama, celebrating all things Swan – Dying, Lake, and otherwise.” The online lesson invited participants of all ages to create and share their own interpretation of what the company lovingly calls, “The Terminal Swan.” Other programs include #TrocksTBT which takes a peek into the company’s forty-five-year archives and #TrocksOnline which posts past performances. The Museum’s Docent Coordinator Mary Anne Fantauzzi recently spoke with Roy Fialkow about the current landscape of virtual learning and programming and the Trocks own unique online engagement with the dance community.
I cannot believe our serendipitous virtual encounter at the National Museum of Dance’s Ageless Dancer Ballet Barre class. The class roster includes participants from all over the country but your name and career in New York City sparked a glimmer of recognition. What is the common thread that unexpectedly connected us? How did you happen upon the class?
My first online “community engagement” workshop for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (with major assistance from the company’s Associate Director/Production Manager Isabel Martinez and General Manager Liz Harler) appeared online as part of the Trocks Digital Platform #TrocksTakeoverTuesday. I knew the company had been part of the National Museum of Dance’s Gender Neutral exhibition. I also knew that you, Mary Anne, were connected to the museum. I thought that it would be great for the company to share this interactive lesson with the museum, especially during this time of online virtual dance experiences. I had not attended the opening of the Gender Neutral exhibition. I was finishing out my last year as a New York City Department of Education Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, so I had never met you. Little did I know that you were the docent who coordinated activities for the Trocks for that exhibition. I guess the universe connected us during this period of time where everything has been turned upside down.
From the beginning of the quarantine I dove into the numerous online virtual dance experiences. I was drawn to the online dance experiences pitched for a “mature” population who enjoy participating in a dance class. I discovered the National Museum of Dance’s Ageless Dancer Ballet Barre from Facebook. It was my first live Zoom dance class experience. And I must say, it turned out to be a positive experience because of the wonderful teacher and the content of the class. It was also amazing and powerful to know that I was participating in a class with over one hundred participants.
How have you personally weathered the pandemic’s cessation of live performing arts events and the isolating existence in New York City during this time? How do you fulfill your mind, body, and soul with artistic stimulation?
At the very beginning of the lockdown I was a bit in shock. And the realization that daily life had suddenly changed and that a cessation of live performing arts events slowly began to be a reality. After a few days, I realized that I had to approach this great reset with a different mindset. Meditation and focusing on staying in the present moment truly helped me start to explore and rediscover my own creativity. Once I began to participate in YouTube yoga and dance classes and my daily walks in the park, I slowly found my way back to being creative and losing myself in the moment of creation.
As Education Manager of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo you have created a wide range of lesson plans, virtual performances, and suggested family activities. How do you hope to engage the dance community-at-large with these educational opportunities? What might a sample lesson include?
The Trocks Community Engagement Programs use comedy as a vehicle to explore queer history, ballet history, characterization, dance making, and performance. Workshops are accessible to all abilities and dance experiences and aim to uncover, encourage, and celebrate the unique qualities of participants. Pre-COVID-19 community engagement programs could be adapted to the population attending the workshop. For example, at a past workshop for “The Swan,” participants ranged from serious dance students and professional dancers using pointe shoes to a seventy-five-year-old participant. Amazingly, all participants could participate at their own level of ability and create their personal version of “The Swan.” Figuring out how to move these workshops into a virtual experience presented a whole different set of criteria. This new digital platform had to be multi-faceted with a focus on the performance aspect that is now on hold. This online platform would now become the face of the company during the cessation of live performances. Isabel Martinez (Associate Director/Production Manager), Liz Harler (General Manager), and Tory Dobrin (Artistic Director) created #TrocksAtHome. This would be a way of keeping the company active in the eyes of the public in the void created by the pandemic. #TrocksAtHome would include #TrocksTakeoverTuesday which would include live plus previously created video events. The education component (Community Engagement) would be a part of the #TrocksTakeoverTuesday platform. #TrocksTBT (Throwback Thursdays) would give the public insight into Trocks’ historical videos and photos dating back to 1974. On each Friday, a different full-length ballet would be made available to the public for free viewing.
Anyone who has attended a performance of The Trocks knows the audience ranges from young children to mature seniors. Is there a particular demographic you anticipate will benefit more from the lessons than others? How do these virtual lessons differ from the educational opportunities you have offered pre-pandemic?
Before the COVID-19 crisis, the Community Engagement Program participants included older adults at SAGE (Senior Advocacy in a Gay Environment, NYC) and homeless LGBTQ+ youth at the Ali Forney Center (NYC). As the pandemic halted everything, we were about to experience the Trocks’ first Community Engagement workshop at a New York City High School and looking forward to starting a new partnership with older adults at Greenwich House (NYC). These programs are now on hold. With the new digital platform for the Trocks, we hope that a wide variety of demographics will benefit from the online lessons/workshops. The virtual lessons/workshops are a bit different and yet provide so many untapped possibilities. For example, attendance for pre-pandemic “The Swan” workshop could average ten to twenty participants. Now with the digital platform, the same lesson had almost two thousand views on Facebook. At the end of a pre-pandemic workshop there was always a component of participants sharing created choreography that was connected to Trock repertory. With the digital platform, online participants can now send in their choreographic creations to the company, which can then be shared digitally with the vast online Trock dance community.
What is your focus for keeping the mission of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo alive during this unprecedented pause due to the COVID-19 crisis and what is your vision for the company on the other side of this pandemic?
The focus and mission of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo during this unprecedented pause in live performing arts is not much different from the mission of the company when it is touring and performing. The experiences of the digital platform are an extension of the work that defines the company as the world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company, defying expectations and rearticulating absolutes when it comes to dance and ballet. The digital platform experiences are expert, creative, laugh-inducing, and often poignant in their expressions of humanity. And during this “world turned upside down” there can be no other better remedy than to smile and laugh. The Trocks are eager to get back to performing live as is the rest of the dance community. The Trocks have always had an online presence. Hopefully this expanded online presence will continue on the other side of this pandemic. It seems like a perfect way to engage live audience participation as well as online viewers. The Trocks are eager to “Keep on Trockin’.”
The Trocks urge the online community to join in the fun at their Les Ballets Trockadero website, trockadero.org, and the Trocks’ Facebook page and Instagram page.