Hupoy (right, as Alla Snizova) and Laszlo Major in "Le Corsaire." Photo by Zoren Jelenic, Courtesy Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Meet Carlos Hopuy, the Trock Who Will Put Your Pointework to Shame

One of the highlights of New York City's Fall for Dance Festival this year was an appearance by the Ballets Trockadéro de Monte Carlo, a company of men who dance on pointe with as much panache and style as any prima ballerina. Their performance of Paquita was funny, of course—they specialize in comic renditions of classical ballets— but also bracingly well executed. The star of the evening, Carlos Hopuy, aka Alla Snizova, was simply astonishing. His pointework sparkled, his hops on pointe were clean and strong, and he looked like he could have balanced in attitude forever. There was something deeply exciting about the way he combined delicacy and control with the explosive power and steel of a man's physique.

Hopuy, who was born in Havana, Cuba, and trained at the country's famed National Ballet School, has been with the company since 2012. Like all the Trocks, he has both a female and a male alter-ego: when he's not portraying Alla Snizova, he's Innokenti Smoktumuchsky, a dopey cavalier. He is also one of the dancers featured in the upcoming documentary Rebels on Pointe, which will have its theatrical release November 15. I recently caught up with Hopuy, who, when he's not on tour, lives in Orlando with his husband Paolo Cervellera, a former Trock. We spoke by phone, in Spanish.



Did you always want to dance?

I always liked ballet. My mother, Norma Hopuy, was a principal with the Ballet de Camagüey. I used to hang around the rehearsals. She started giving me lessons at home. Then, when I was nine, I auditioned for the National Ballet School. I had the choice between that and gymnastics and I chose ballet.

When did you start going on pointe?

When I was 11. I would ask my classmates for their old pointe shoes and would try them on at home. When my mother realized that I liked to go on pointe, she started training me and bought me my own pair.


Was your entire pointe training done at home with your mother?

Yes, all of it. She got it right away and never asked me why. She knew she had the ability to help me, and so she did.

Did you ever get to dance on pointe in Cuba?

Actually, I got to dance on pointe at my graduation performance. My teacher created a version of Sleeping Beauty for me in which Carabosse went on pointe, and even did fouettés.



Was the idea of a boy dancing Carabosse on pointe accepted at the school?

At first the authorities at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba didn't want me to do it because they couldn't understand why you would have a man on pointe. They organized a separate audition for me, to see if I was really ready. There were rumors that there was a kid at the school who could dance better on pointe than a lot of the women at the Ballet Nacional. So the four "Jewels of Cuban Ballet" [Loipa Araújo, Aurora Bosch, Josefina Méndez and Mirta Plá] came to audition me and confirmed that yes, I was good enough. But it created a lot of controversy.

Why weren't you taken by the Ballet Nacional?

They said it was because I was too short [Hopuy is 5'5"], but I think the dancing on pointe was also a factor. There was a bad feeling about it in the air. After graduating, I spent six months at home, doing nothing, because the Culture Ministry said I was a young talent who had been formed by the Revolution and my talent was too great for me to dance in any other company than the Ballet Nacional. So they wouldn't let me leave the country. Finally, they allowed me to dance with a company run by Laura Alonso, Pro Danza.



How did you get from there to the Trocks?

I went to Costa Rica with official permission and danced with the National Ballet of Costa Rica for four years, in traditional male roles. Then, a friend invited me to Mexico to dance Coppélia. I went, and then I decided to cross the border into the U.S. illegally. At the time it was not so difficult for us Cubans to stay the U.S. I spent four years at Ballet San Antonio, and then I reached out to the Ballets Trockadéro. I auditioned, and the same day, I got a contract.

One of the striking things about the Ballet Trockadéro is that the company spoofs ballet, but at the same time, all the dancers are tremendously good at the very thing they are poking fun at.

Yes, the jokes are built into the ballets, but the technique is always present. When I dance, I'm serious about what I'm doing. It takes just as much rigor, or even more, to do what we do. And I think that making people laugh is even harder than making people cry.

What do you enjoy most about the ways the Trockadéro rep tweaks the repertory?

What I like is that it doesn't take it all so seriously; it takes that tremendous pressure that exists in traditional companies down a notch. In traditional ballet, people get so upset if even the slightest thing doesn't go right. At Trockadéro we feel bad, but not as bad.

The company in a 2016 performance of "Paquita" at the Joyce Theater. (Hopuy enters at 2:07.)

Do you also enjoy dancing traditional male roles from time to time?

I do. There is something so explosive; the dynamic is different. I still do a few things here and there.

Where do you take class?

In New York, I go to Nancy Bielski's class at Steps on Broadway. And in Orlando, I take class at Central Florida Ballet.

Have you ever thought about teaching a pointe class for men?

I would love to. It's an idea I have for the future: a ballet school just for men.


Photo by Zoran Jelenic, Courtesy Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

When you go onstage, do you feel like you're dancing yourself, or a character that you've invented?

Part of it is me. I have to put all my love and all my effort into it so that it will look natural. But another part is the ballerina. That ballerina is part of me, but she's not there all the time. When you put on that wig and those eyelashes this other part, that you like to explore, comes out.

Like Wonder Woman!

Yes. The superhero is there, but she only comes out sometimes.

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After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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