tue 18/09/2018

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Prog 2, Peacock Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Prog 2, Peacock Theatre

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Prog 2, Peacock Theatre

Balanchine and Cunningham get the Trocks treatment in second London bill

Dream team: the chaps in chiffon take on the soporific romantic ballet, Les Sylphides© Sascha Vaughan

If the Trocks didn't exist, we would have to invent them. Every genre needs its loving parodists, treading the fine line between homage and dommage, and an art form as stylised and convention-governed as classical dance is riper for it than most - as evidenced by the continuing worldwide success of this all-male comedy troupe after more than 40 years. Now they're in London, and this second programme proves that they can be just as diverse as any great Russian company, taking in as it does the romantic ballet Les Sylphides, the Imperial kitsch-fest Don Quixote, and modern American masters George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham.

Ballet is so distinctive that you need to have seen only a few minutes in your life to get the basic joke: men in tutus, on pointe, doing the steps but exaggerating the mannerisms, and throwing in the odd prattfall for the belly laughs. The beauty of the Trocks' routine is that it works at every level: plain old slapstick is interwoven with detailed imitations of the foibles of a particular species of dancer or style of ballet, and the takeoff amuses and impresses in equal measure because these guys are just so damn good.

Take their beloved Dying Swan routine, which saw Programme One's prima ballerina replaced by Maria Paranova (Carlos Renedo). Antics with the spotlight recalls the anarchic laughs of a Looney Tunes cartoon (though David Nice was unamused by that); moulting feathers and attacks of arthritis are simply comic; but there is huge delight for balletomanes in Renedo's acute evocation of the self-satisfatied, aging superstar ballerina - who can barely keep a smile off her face as she "dies" - in conjunction with swan arms and hands so graceful, they remind you why this ridiculous, delightful art form is worth loving in the first place.

In their version of Les Sylphides, which opens the show, the Trocks present the romantic style in affectionate completeness: drooping wrists, tiny fairy wings, heads held carefully forward at an angle that risks a crick in the neck, and demurely half-closed eyes in the corps (the "girl" who forgets herself for a minute and smiles broadly provokes indignation in the others). A pale and leggy prince, Sergey Legupski (Gianni Goffredo), stares dreamily into the middle distance at all times, causing his inamorata, Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaelle Morra), to have some doubts as to his heart rate; in the comic apotheosis, the whole corps succumbs to the same soporific atmosphere. Tears of laughter result, but also some real regret that "proper" classical companies do this wonderful ballet so rarely.

The Trocks in Go For Barocco - a Balanchine parodySwitching from Fokine to Cunningham and Balanchine in one bill is no mean feat, but the Trocks are all over it, ditching chiffon tutus for stretch velour catsuits over the interval. Their Cunningham takeoff, Patterns in Space, is so accurate as to be rather dull to watch - certainly outshone by the John Cage antics of the musicians, who hold everything from an electric razor to a paper bag against the microphones with grand seriousness.

The faux-Balanchine Go For Barocco - stemming, the programme tells us, from his Middle Blue-verging-on-Black-and-white-Period - is another triumph of observation. Mr B's favourite tricks, from high kicks and flexed feet to intricate manoeuvres with interlinked hands, are all presented by the troupe's leggiest dancers (pictured above right), who take their deserved applause at curtain call with the sidelong modest smiles of City Ballet's fresh-faced finest.

Yekaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) of The Trocks in Don QuixoteThough much-loved by balletomanes for its show-off variations, Don Quixote is one of the daftest of nineteenth-century ballets, and the Trocks have all the fun with it you would expect. Ditching the tedious characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (cheers cheers cheers, as Molesworth would say), they mine aspects of La Fille mal gardée and Coppélia to present a typical comic ballet sequence of true love challenged but triumphant, gleefully parodying along the way the bizarre language of ballet mime, the appearance (see Cinderella) of a hunched old crone in rags, and that Imperial ballet staple, the dream sequence white act. Chuckles abound, but marvels of dance are there too, chiefly in the pretty person of Yekaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey, pictured above left), who gives an astonishingly good account of Kitri, the virtuoso ballerina part.

Packing all the jollity into a sixth of the time, the Trocks' Don Quixote will (at least temporarily) disincline you ever to sit through the three hours of the original again. It's impossible not to emerge with a smile on your face and your love of ballet restored to full battery strength - don't miss it.

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