Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Programme B: Les Sylphides, Tchaikovsky pas de deux, Napoli, Dying Swan, Raymonda’s Wedding
18 September 2018
12 September 2018
The Trocks continue into a second week at the Peacock with a new programme, and both they and the audience are having huge fun. There isn’t enough genuinely funny ballet. In times when most of the news seems to be depressing, the all-male troupe bring welcome cheer and gleeful jauntiness to their wicked send-ups of ballet classics, which are still clearly beloved even as they are made fun of. They appeal to the hardened balletomane and casual theatregoer alike: everyone it seems adores a bunch of guys with hairy chests, big pointe shoes and a determination to have a good time on stage.
The voiceover introduction to the performance in a cod-Russian accent softens up the audience nicely and sets the tone for what follows. The Trocks have honed their approach over the years and they clearly know what works. They begin with the best-known classic which gets stuffed full of pratfalls and sight gags before moving on to pieces which are done almost (but never entirely) straight to remind you that they really can deliver the goods when they want to, and that their pirouettes are impeccable.
The opening piece here is Les Sylphides, where a musing poet floats through a bevy of ballerinas in long white tutus. Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo) as the hero is quite magnificently dim, with an expression of sublime befuddlement, never being entirely sure towards which part of the stage he should be heading. His ludicrous white wig almost deserves a credit of its own, at one point growing to something the size of a small sheep. The ballerinas make it clear that they know just how to deliver the steps when they aren’t knocking each other over, bickering or sleepwalking over the edge of the stage into the audience. Yet it still manages to be Les Sylphides with some very pretty patterns in the corps of eight.
The middle part of the programme starts with Tchaikovsky pas de deux. It’s relatively unusual for the Trocks to choose a virtuoso piece currently performed by many companies, rather than an old or neglected classic. It’s described in the programme as “after” Balanchine. Well, quite some distance after. You can certainly understand the high fives for the performers after some tricky manoeuvres. It was done with terrific verve and panache by Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) and Mikhail Mypantsarov (Roberto Vega).
There are a number of dancers new to the Trocks since their last visit here three years ago. What is striking about the company is how eclectic it is: there are dancers from China, Japan, South Africa, Spain and Italy as well as the US where the company originates. They come in a fabulous array of skin tones and body types. And a range of heights too, which enables plenty more jokes. Napoli is cast with two shorter dancers in the male roles but with some more towering figures in the four female parts. When it comes to lifts, it’s the little guy that gets picked up and tossed in the air.
The Napoli pas de six is relatively new to the Trocks and its bright sunny mood suits them well. The light and springy but contained Bournonville style is more of a stretch for dancers who spend most of their time cultivating an old-school Russian bravura. The company have been coached by Karina Elver, a Bournonville specialist, and the two dancers in the male roles did have an appealing buoyancy and nimble footwork.
No programme by the Trocks is ever complete without The Dying Swan. It is to them what Revelations is to the Alvin Ailey company, a mandatory talisman. Here the bird was executed, as the intro says, by Trocks veteran Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) in a muscular and rather defiant performance, stuffing moulting feathers down the front of the tutu and not so much expiring as keeling over. The curtain calls for this are nearly as long as the ballet itself and just as funny. It’s the only time applause is ever intentionally milked. Otherwise, the show sweeps on slickly. The programme is well timed and planned overall. Nothing goes on too long: if you didn’t like that joke there will be another, different one along in a minute.
The bill concludes with Raymonda’s Wedding. It’s a version of the concluding act of celebrations from Petipa’s 19th century classic, not seen often now but sometimes given separately as a splendid display piece. Much of this was done very crisply with real style and elegance. The Hungarian folk inflections and tilting of heads from side to side are very deliberately overdone. The company is very much on the home straight now with the audience solidly behind them and loving every minute. The performers keep up the giggle quotient with remarkable economy of means. There’s just the odd gesture, pout or eye-rolling enough to undercut the would-be grandeur and start another chuckle.
The leading male is portrayed as a bit dim-witted, memorably colliding with the wings on exit. Raymonda herself (Nina Enimenimynimova / Long Zou) has the required pristine technique and air of command, subverted by throwing in a cartwheel in a moment of exuberance. In the 19th century ballerinas would routinely add in their own special variations into a performance and you could say that the Trocks follow that tradition in inserting some show off fouttées wherever and whenever possible whether in the original or not.
It would be great if the company could consider a few new targets: I’m sure there would be an audience for their take on William Forsythe or Wayne McGregor. But the Trocks are amazing survivors, in business since 1974, working on a modest budget and reliably delivering a good night out for ticket prices that aren’t greedy. They are on tour through the UK until early November. Go and see them and have a good time.