TBT’s Texas two step produces a gender-bending twist on ‘Cinderella’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer [email protected]

TEXAS TWO STEP  |  Peter Zweifel and Mark Troxler bring dancing skill and comic panache — as well as a bit of masculinity — to Ben Stevenson’s campy production of ‘Cinderella.’ (Photo courtesy Ellen Appel)
TEXAS TWO STEP | Peter Zweifel and Mark Troxler bring dancing skill and comic panache — as well as a bit of masculinity — to Ben Stevenson’s campy production of ‘Cinderella.’ (Photo courtesy Ellen Appel)

Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Oct. 1–3. Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, Oct. 22–24. $19–$99.


Once upon a time, Texas Ballet Theater decided to have a little fun with a fairy tale classic. Artistic director Ben Stevenson has a wicked sense of humor when it comes to the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, so for the upcoming productions of the timeless love story, Peter Zweifel and Mark Troxler are bringing a little extra something to these female roles: A bulge in their tights.

Gender-bending is common in opera, where female sopranos sometimes take on “trouser roles,” portraying men. According to Troxler, though, the stepsister roles are often portrayed by men in productions of Cinderella — after all, Rose Room divas notwithstanding, men make the ugliest women. But that won’t distract from the fact that these are two highly skilled, accomplished dancers.

Troxler trained with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and spent summers with San Francisco Ballet School and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy before joining TBT, which he’s been with for nine years. Zweifel, who found his love for ballet after his mother put him into dance classes when he was a sprig, is in his sixth season with TBT. He got his start at the Virginia School of the Arts and the Stevenson Academy.

For the two seasoned dancers, the ugly stepsister roles present the opportunity to do something outside their comfort zones.

“This is more of a character acting role, as opposed to a dancing role. I am also playing a girl, so pretty much everything about it is different,” says Zweifel. “I like that I get to be funny and silly. These are sides of myself that I don’t usually get to explore onstage.”

Troxler agrees that this is a hilarious production.

“My favorite part of this ballet is the humor. From start to finish it’s a roller coaster of laughs,” he says. “With a love story thrown in.”

Troxler, who will also be playing other parts in Cinderella, isn’t phased by the need to quickly transform from one character to another. “It’s not too big of a deal switching roles,” he says.

“You just change your mental preparation and your costume.”

But really, he just wants to dance as much as he can.

“What made me decide to dance is the same thing that keeps me going every day my knees are aching and my back is sore. The love of the art form,” Troxler says. “It’s a very rare career and you can only dance for so long.”

Ballet, like opera, can be intimidating to a lot of people, often because the perception is that the performances will be boring or too complex. So Cinderella presents a great opportunity for ballet novices and enthusiasts alike to enjoy something lighthearted and fun.

“Just drop whatever horrible stereotype you have created in your mind and be open to experiencing something different. Come and enjoy the music and the dancing,” Zweifel says. ”Ballet is very athletic, which I think is something most people don’t realize. So even if you are a complete jock, you will be able to enjoy it. Don’t be afraid.”

Enjoying it won’t be the problem —  it’ll be stifling the desire to cheer for the stepsisters to put that prima ballerina, Cinderella, in her place. But even if they don’t come out on top, they’ll most certainly come out with a five-o’clock shadow.

For readers of Dallas Voice who make a reservation by calling 877-828-9200 and use the promo code “stepsister,” tickets for many seats are 50 percent off.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.