By Diane Parkes
Hilarious ballet superstars Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo return to Buxton this autumn, and dancer Giovanni Goffredo may be recognised by audiences for more than just his pirouettes and arabesques…
As a dancer with The Trocks, Giovanni has been watched by tens of thousands of people worldwide – but appearing in a television series brought him a different kind of fame.
Better known as Gianni, he and his partner Matthew featured in the relationship counselling programme Couples Therapy. Filmed largely during lockdown in 2020 and aired in the UK in 2021, the couple shared their difficulties with clinical psychologist Dr Orna Guralnik. Stepping out of the corps de ballet and into the television spotlight was a surprise for Gianni even after being a theatre performer for years.
“Before I used to be known as ‘Gianni The Dancer’ and now I’m also ‘Gianni From Couples Therapy’ so it has been different,” he says. “Even in New York where we live, I would be recognised three times a week on the street.
“I went to Australia in March and there were people who had watched the show there. It has been quite overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting this when we went into it but I’m grateful and happy.
“Relationships can be tough, we all have our ups and downs, but now we are in a much better place because of the show. It has been a wonderful journey and I know the work we did has meant something to other people. The amount of messages we received and people who reached out to us was amazing. That was what made us realise why we did it - others will see themselves in us and our story can help someone else.”
Originally from Bari in Italy, Gianni joined The Trocks in 2013. The all-male ballet company, founded in 1974, has gained an international reputation for blending drag, comedy and top-quality dance.
“It was my first job and I got to join Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the chance to perform all over the world. It was pretty exciting,” recalls Gianni. “Trockadero is one of a kind. In countries all over the world drag is something very special and that is what makes this show unique and wonderful - bringing something different to people, bringing classical ballet with a twist.
“It’s comedy, it’s funny and people enjoy themselves. They come out to have a good time and a laugh but also to watch high-level classical dancing. We are all trained in the most prestigious schools all over the world.”
Gianni took a break from The Trocks in 2017 so he could develop his skills as a freelance artist and to spend more time with Matthew as the company has an intensive international touring schedule. But he missed being a Trock so much he returned in 2021.
“It’s been wonderful being back and being back to travelling internationally again, especially after Covid,” he says.
“I’m also excited because I’m getting the chance to dance roles that I haven’t performed before so it’s not that I’m back at the place where I was five years ago. I’m making my debuts in new roles and I enjoy the challenge.
“I’m dancing the lead role in Vivaldi Suite which is a beautiful ballet. I’m on stage from the beginning to the very end and it’s a very challenging role but the whole piece is spectacular.”
Taking a break from the company did pose Gianni with one problem – getting used to dancing in pointe shoes again.
“I had never done pointe work before I joined the company the first time and that was a challenge to begin with. When I was freelancing, I was mainly doing male roles so now I have to get back the strength in my feet and my ankles to prevent injuries from pointe shoes. It is challenging but it’s what Trockadero is.”
The Trocks have led the way in providing high-quality drag performance – an artform which has now moved hugely into the mainstream thanks to television shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. Even in the time Gianni has been with the company he has seen this change.
“When I joined Trockadero I didn’t really know what drag was. When you think the company started doing this in 1974, that’s a long time ago. Now with Drag Race, it’s just massive everywhere. I’m sure it has helped people in the community to come out and for more people to understand it, it’s bringing a culture to new generations.”
For Gianni, The Trocks are also a great way to encourage new audiences into dance.
“There is a lot of variety and we bring different repertoire, it’s not like watching a full-length ballet. On this tour, you’ll get the famous second act of Swan Lake, a surprise pas de deux or perhaps a modern work, then there’s Vivaldi Suite inspired by Balanchine and finally the wedding scene from Raymonda which I think is a masterpiece!
“I remember my father coming to see Trockadero and he said it was the first show he hadn’t fallen asleep in! He used to come and see me in Germany with Giselle, which is a beautiful ballet but it can be very long and boring for someone who is not in the field. That is what I like about the company, we can reach out to new audiences, from kids to older people.”
Now 29, Gianni attended his first ballet class at the age of five but discovered he was the only boy in the dance school so took up other sports instead. Then when he was 12 his sister began dancing. He went to see her in a show and he was hooked.
“I told my mum that was what I wanted to do and she said ‘OK, I’ll sign you up for dance classes’ and I started. Then my teacher saw that I was talented and she said I should audition for a more professional school.”
At the age of 14 Gianni left his home to attend classes in Naples where he was talent spotted and invited to join La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan. Gianni moved to Milan at the age of 15 and a year later gained a place at the Ballett-Akademie in Munich. After three years he received a scholarship to New York which has been his home ever since.
“I was very young and it was exciting, but now when I think about it, I can’t believe I did all of that, being away from my family and my family having the courage to send me away. I’m very grateful that they supported me right from the beginning.”
The Trocks are at Buxton Opera House on 7 & 8 October as part of a 12-venue UK tour presented by Dance Consortium, a group of UK theatres who bring the very best of international contemporary dance to venues across the country.
Dance Consortium has a strong relationship with The Trocks, having organised six of their UK tours – the most of any company it presents. And it will be Gianni’s second visit to the country.
“When I came to the UK with Trockadero, it was my first time ever in the UK and we did two weeks in London which is a wonderful city. I love Europe in general, I love the architecture and the history, and it was interesting to see how different the cities are in the UK.
“This is one of the wonderful things with this company, you get to see so many places around the world and perform in so many wonderful theatres. When I first joined, I couldn’t believe it and now I’ve been to Asia, to Israel, to Europe, America, Hawaii, who gets to do that? It’s pretty special.
“I’m very excited to be coming back to the UK, I enjoy the food and the pubs and l love the accent – although I can’t always understand it! We’ll be touring for two months so we will get to see a lot of places. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Tickets are priced at £30-£38. To book, call our Box Office on 01298 72190 or buy online.
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