tue 18/09/2018

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre

Petipa remains the style guru as the boys en pointe keep it classical

Part of the Trocks' corps in 'Paquita'All images by Zoran Jelenic

If you don’t know the steps or the stars being semi-spoofed, will you laugh? Yes, though perhaps not as much as anticipated. The best parody needs to be as good as the original, and “the Trocks”, as Tory Dobrin's New York-based company has been known in its 40-plus years to date, take their Petipa and Ivanov very seriously. The drag gags are mere ornaments to a classical feast, and don’t fly into the fantastical like some of the ones you get in any Matthew Bourne show; the real reward is some remarkable dancing.

For a start, there’s the visual feast of men en pointe, as the corps – of eight rather than the usual 24 - first appears in Act Two of Swan Lake, one of the few liberties taken with Ivanov’s indelible, unsmotherable choreography. There are the facial expressions, which too few classical dancers bother with enough; sure, these are to make you laugh, and best at that is the distraught Esmeralda of Nina Immobilashvili (Alberto Pretto), lamenting the betrayal of her two-timing officer as Pierre Gregoire (Matthew Poppe as Ilya Bobovnikov) drags her through a Pas de deux. The make-up, as thickly applied to the danseurs – including two piss-blond-wigged princes – as it is to the heavily eye-shadowed ballerinas makes most of the ensemble look like a cross between Grayson Perry’s Claire and Bianca Del Rio, hilariously insulting winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The Trocks' Corsaire Pas de deuxThere are classic performances: I imagine balletomanes will be flocking to see the many dancers who’ve joined the cast since the company was last here five years ago, just as they notch up every principle couple in every run over the road at the Royal Opera House. Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) is charming in the Pas de deux from Le Corsaire, but upstaged by her show-offy partner with his extra acrobatics, Araf Legupski (Laszlo Major, pictured above with Hopuy – “Farukh Ruzimatov” whispered the man in front to his neighbour).

Nadia Doumiafeyva (Philip Martin-Nielson, whose impressive triumph over adversity is recounted in the programme) finds regal poise as well as pique with her prince as Odette. Eugenia Repelskii (Joshua Thake) milks the fluttering long-arm gestures, shedding feathers by the ton, as the Dying Swan. And the fairest of them all is Yekaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey), as pretty as Tamara Rojo in the big Paquita sequence, where the Prince is even more hapless and the corps is now upped to 12.

The Trocks in EsmeraldaSome of the fun is predictable, but kept to a minimum. We frequently get the one-in-four (or more) who’s out of line, but the adjustment to face the same direction as the others is consummately done by Duane Gosa in Paquita. There’s not too much dropping of the prima ballerina, and a few telling swipes at 19th century absurdity: the tambourine nonsense in Esmeralda (pictured left), the ludicrous interventions of Siegfried’s friend Benno (Raffaelle Mora as Pepe Dufka) in the Pas de deux that originally wasn’t, and the pitiful lack of show for the prince himself, Paolo Cerverella as another of the Legupskis presenting across the stage without doing anything.

The audience did seem, frankly, to laugh at anything – the follow-spot business isn’t funny – and I wonder just how much has been added in the 18 years since I last saw the company. The canned music, though the performances are fine, is distortingly loud as usual; the Trocks are good enough to have a real pit band, but I guess that would be too expensive on tour. Excellent programme, by the way, with group photos of ballerinas, danseurs and the lads uncostumed a clever way of setting up biographies fake and real.

As in classical ballet, I lost focus a bit into the Paquita variations, only one of which is funny, and I’d like to see what the dancers can do with Balanchine and Merce Cunningham "homages" in their second programme. That you can catch in the second week at the Peacock starting on 22 September, or on a UK tour which should win the Trocks many new friends. See them at least once; there’s no ballet team quite like them.

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