Atlantan’s versatility fits in with comedy troupe

When Calvin Gentry first saw Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, he thought it would be fun to dance parodies of historic classical ballets — in full ballet drag, complete with tutus, pink tights, wig, makeup and pointe shoes.

Gentry, a native of Atlanta, will do just that Sunday at the Ferst Center for the Arts as a member of the all-male travesty troupe known for comic prowess, technical mastery and stylistic mockery.

“If you can do it, I can do it,” was Gentry’s attitude toward female classmates who danced en pointe in Atlanta Ballet’s pre-professional training program. As a full-scholarship student there, Gentry practiced in his classmates’ discarded pointe shoes after class and during rehearsal breaks. Surprisingly, pointe work came easily.

Gentry apprenticed with Atlanta Ballet, then performed for four years with Ballethnic Dance Company. But he was curious to learn what the greater dance world offered. Eager to travel and to tackle the pointe technique of classical ballet’s female roles, Gentry auditioned for the Trocks. It was a fit.

Trockadero artistic director Tory Dobrin described Gentry, 26, as “a very natural dancer, both strong and flexible. He can jump wonderfully — and turn wonderfully — on and off pointe.”

Gentry is an example of the younger, stronger classically trained dancers the 36-year-old comedy ballet company has attracted since the early 1990s. This surge in skill has enabled the troupe to perform bona fide stagings — in parody — of ballets from the classical canon.

“The better choreography that you dance, the better you get to be as a dancer,” Dobrin said.

And this younger generation has been more receptive to coaching.

“A lot of times you have dancers who don’t listen. But in our case, the guys are really eating up the material that our coaches bring,” Dobrin said.

Coaches like Russian répétiteur Elena Kunikova stage classical ballets in their original form. Kunikova is known for bringing out emotional nuances and stylistic details that form the basis of the company’s gender-bending satires.

Sunday evening’s program offers a range of ballet styles, looks and music designed for a wide range of audiences.

Dobrin explained how varied styles lend themselves to different kinds of humor, from the subtle to the brazen.

The company’s signature “Swan Lake, Act II,” a campy send-up of the 19th century classic, starts the show. “Patterns in Space” parodies Cunningham’s “Points in Space,” taking liberties with an aggravating style of live music improvisation inspired by John Cage.

The mid-19th century romantic ballet gem “La Vivandiere” works off of its era’s charm and style, but the Trocks “tipped it further,” Dobrin said, “using a gigantic lead ballerina with the smallest dancer we had in the company as the partner.”

Finally, “Majisimas” gets into the National Ballet of Cuba’s Spanish-influenced, contemporary classical style.

Gentry will dance a female solo variation in “Majisimas.” It’s the kind of role he’s wanted to dance since he joined the company.

“I wanted to explore that part of my character, to see if I could really dance en pointe like that,” he said. “It was like, let me go and be a part of this — put my pointe shoes on and travel across the world. That sounds good to me!”