Can you give a quick background leading up to how and why you finished up as a Trock?
I trained at the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace in Monte-Carlo. After graduation I got hired by English National Ballet and then I worked for the Koblenz Ballet in Germany.
I felt like I needed a challenge, and I was bored with the roles that were assigned to me. I always wanted to dance on pointe, so I was like, “Why not the Trocks?”
The Trock dancers have two stage names, one male, one female… what are yours?
I am Alberto Pretto, aka Nina Immobilashvili and Stanislas Kokitch.
My ballerina name originates from Nina Ananiashvili, the famous Georgian ballerina. Immobil-ashvili because with all this dancing she's had enough and basically she can't move anymore! The boy name..? I don't know!
What was your previous experience with pointe shoes, and how have your feet and body developed dancing on pointe so often?
I used to put pointe shoes on at ballet school and try a few things at the barre. I also used to take the Friday class with the girls, which was a pointe technique class, but always at the barre and that was it. When I decided to audition for the Trocks I started taking more serious classes on pointe; it was like starting everything all over again from the basics. But it was a challenge I wanted to take. All the muscles in the feet need to be strong for pointe work, and it took me a while to get used to toe shoes. Now it still hurts, but is much easier and I can do a variety of steps that I could not have imagined ever to execute, among them the famous fouettes.
What do you use to protect your feet: before, during and after a performance?
The day before the performance I ice my ankles, especially after a long day of rehearsal. Inside the pointe shoes I wear ouch pouches (my previous teachers will have to excuse me for this: ouch pouches were forbidden to the girls when I was in the academy!). As soon as the performance is over and I am in my hotel room, I ice my feet again and go to bed with a layer of arnica gel on my ankles.
What shoes do you use, and how do you adapt or treat them?
I use Gaynor Minden, like the majority of the company. They don't really need a lot of work to prepare them, I call them the prêt-à-porter pointe shoes. Also they stay pretty much the same from day one, so they are definitely a shoe that you can trust. I have my special order from the boutique in New York.
The Trocks work hard: how is it putting on the pointes again for a day's second show?
Sometimes it's a hell of a time, especially when your feet are swollen and they barely fit in the shoe. But we just suck it up and go… the life of a ballerina!
Make-up is so important: how long does it take to do your make-up? Do you have any special tricks to keep it from running? And what happens between shows if you want to nip out and get something to eat?
It takes me about one hour and 15 minutes to do my make-up and get into the wig for the show. But I can squeeze it to 45 minutes when I am really rushed. I don't really sweat that much so my make-up is always flawless. I just powder up in between acts. When double shows occur, I usually wear a headband à la Makarova over my own hair with big sunglasses and go about the city incognito. But it's only to cross the street to the closest coffee place or grocery store and come back very quickly.
You tour continuously to a wide variety of theatres: how difficult is it to adapt to different stages?
It is very difficult to adapt to the different stages. Especially when we dance on very hard floors. Not to mention the old raked theatres in Europe… that's when you start falling during the turns in class. I always try to look higher over the first ring to get my body in the right balance. And I go for single pirouettes!
Is humour the same the world over or do you notice differences? Do you adapt certain comic elements according to where you are?
Humour is pretty much the same everywhere even though there are differences in the way people laugh at our jokes. Or sometimes the audience will laugh during a certain moment of the show whereas in other countries they won't. We have some ballets that have some free choreographic moments, that's where we try to do an hommage to the country we are in. For example, in Italy we would perform some belly movements like Raffaella Carrà.
Do you have any stories about technical problems with costumes, wigs, make-up or shoes?
There are many stories!! Here's one: one of our colleagues got food poisoning from a restaurant and during the show ran off stage screaming, “Get me out of this costume!!!”… he was wearing a white romantic tutu.
How has being a Trock changed your life?
Being a Trock has totally changed my life in every little way possible. It made me move to New York, even though I am rarely home due to the touring schedule. It made me take life in a different way. I take myself less seriously now. I learned how to make fun of myself and that's very important at times!