Six men take to the stage in frilly trousers to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes and entertain the audience in what is so often considered a feminine pursuit. Their very masculine physiques, however, showcase what it is to be a successful male dancer – pure athleticism. Chicos Mambo are based in France, although were created in Barcelona in 1994 when choreographer, Philippe Lafeuille, met two dancers with both superb dance technique and a fiery sense of humour. This combination created the premise for the company and here, in TUTU, those roots are clear for all to see.
The cast travel through the world of dance in the show with nods to ballet, contemporary, ballroom and physical theatre amongst others. Their ballet is particularly impressive given that men would not normally wear pointes shoes and as five of the cast struggle across the stage, all female ballet dancers in the audience must feel vindicated as they have long lamented the pain they must go through for their art. One dancer, however, transcends any difficulties and performs a solo with grace and beauty showing that men too can truly master the art of pointe.
The performance includes many popular references which most of the audience will recognise such as the cygnet dance from Swan Lake, hilarious partner dancing from Strictly Come Dancing and I’ve Had the Time of my Life from Dirty Dancing.
Each dancer is given the opportunity to showcase their individual personality and talents, although at times this is a bit over the top and some of the more surreal moments of dance will be lost on many. That said what is most important about the performance is the message that we shouldn’t judge and assume what one can do because of gender. In an emotive scene one dancer stands solitary in the middle of a circle as others surround him shouting those questions all dancers have been asked at one point: “Isn’t dance for girls?” “You must be really flexible.” “Show us something.” Well, they just have.