Stuffing the Swan
Before you jump to any rude conclusions – this is not a Trocks ‘initiation ritual’ or any kind of vulgar party game that involves blind-folds, poultry or indeed any of the dancers. This is in-house ‘wardrobe-speak’ for how you prepare the tutu for the Trocks’ version of Dying Swan. If you don’t want to know the secret – scroll away to another entry on this site!
Still peeking? Okay.
Take one all-white tutu. Place in a large basket. Now – working up from the bottom layer, cram lots and lots of white feathers onto the stiffened net. Do this for each layer, until the tutu is totally loaded with feathers.
Now – carefully seal the edges all the way round with clothes pins, the spring-y clip variety.
Tenderly transport the tutu – still in the basket – to the wings where your Swan awaits. Ever so carefully, dress your Swan in the costume – you might want to think of Pavlova at this point, although ‘cream puff’ might be a more appropriate delight. Gently remove ALL the clothes pins. Stand well back and admire as the Swan sashays on-stage and begins to moult…aaaaahhh.
‘I never lose that feeling of ‘omigosh, it’s beautiful’ when all those feathers start to waterfall out of the costume,’sighs Jenni Schwaner-Ladd who recently stepped in as a temporary wardrobe supervisor on the Trocks’ London shows in Autumn 2008. ‘Times, when you’re maybe in a rush – lots to do – then ‘stuffing the swan’ is a pain to do. Because you can’t cut corners. There’s a way to do it – Christopher (Vergara, the company’s permanent wardrobe supervisor) took me through it, just about feather by feather, before I came away. But actually, when you see how important it is, on-stage, to have a kinda snowstorm of feathers – it’s worth taking care, it really is.’
For Schwaner-Ladd, who hails from Wisconsin, her time with the Trocks is ‘a dream come true for me. I’ve been checking in with them, year on year, just in case they ever needed somebody – even though I don’t live in New York! But ever since I saw the Trocks, I just wanted to be involved. Why? Because of how they dance. Men on pointe – you think, well that’s amazing. And it is. But actually what makes it so fascinating is they do the pointe-work so beautifully. Even when they’re being funny, they still dance really well. And because they’re men, they can accentuate the feminine mannerisms – be more female than female – so they do come over as these fabulous ballerinas.’
Any other behind-scenes secrets? ‘Well… everyone has their own method, but I find that dish-washing detergent – you know, liquid soap – with maybe a dash of ammonia, is great for getting make-up stains off of costumes.’