Trocks Tour 2018 Programme A: Swan Lake act II; Harlequinade pas de deux; La Trovatiara; The Dying Swan; The Little Humpback Horse
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Tonight’s family audience is putty in the hands of the Trocks (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo), ready to laugh at the slightest thing. Not your usual ballet audience, but this is not your usual ballet company. More of a Sunday Night at the London Palladium ballet variety show with comic timing to match the old vaudeville stars.
Founded in 1974 in New York, the Trocks “have performed in over 600 cities in 38 countries”. Some statistic…—are they ever home? This is their fifteenth visit to the UK. Imagine a company on the road for over forty years; imagine the goodwill they have generated over these years.
Last seen in the UK in 2015, the all-male comedy ballet company is back with an eight-week, twelve-venue tour including the virgin territory of Ireland. Will Ireland know what’s hit it?
Camp and ham but what jambes and what théâtral jambon: each of the eighteen dancers has two personas, danseurs and ballerinas—with outrageous pastiche Russian-French-Georgian-ish names to match. The glossy programme is essential reading for their faux histories and moans.
But, they sure can dance when they decide to get serious and stop fluttering their tarantula eyelashes and making big eyes at their adoring fans. They are on fine form reaching across the footlights, milking the applause. And could we all do with a laugh these days…
Swan Lake Act II is the warm up pantomime act and the Trocks send it up tremendously—one swan skidding in on its belly—a swan dive. The humour is quite simple and basic but done with such old-fashioned ingenousness that it is hard to resist. Some of the swans are viciously butch, cheered on by many in the auditorium.
Pratfalls and accidents—fake or real—abound, but neat Carlos Hopuy (or should I say petite Alla Snizova), alumnus of Cuba’s National Ballet School and four times Gold Medal winner in Cuba and Japan, is an amazing Odette. Precise, sturdy balances, spiffing turns, tantrum notwithstanding.
The four cygnets are easy to parody (Matthew Bourne does it in his Swan Lake): there’s always a naughty one on the end of the row. And Siegfried (Duane Gosa / Vladimir Legupski) can’t even be bothered to lift Odette—that chore he hands to his friend Benno (Raffaele Morra / Pepe Dufka).
The evening is full of surprises: Harlequinade pas de deux, from Petipa and Drigo’s ballet comique, is performed straight and with some panache by Long Zou / Nina Enimenimynimova and Takaomi Yoshino / Boris Dumkopf, their variations top-notch, Yoshino’s scissor jumps astounding.
La Trovatiara pas de cinq borrows Verdi’s opera music for its tale of captive pirate wenches and rubber scimitars, but all ends well, the programme notes tell us, and the girls are “sent forth to open coin operated laundries all over Europe”. See what I mean about Max Wall type of humour?
The Dying Swan “will be executed” by Helen Highwaters (Gosa), but I think I preferred Eugenia Repelskii’s (Joshua Thake) of 2015, though there’s not much to choose between them. I’m rather taken with Thake’s star performance both as Repelskii and Jacques d’Aniels (Rothbart).
He’s a natural comic, as he proves in the underwater scene from The Little Humpback Horse (Konyok Gorbunok), based on the fairytale by Pyotr Yershov, with its Medusas, Star Fish (Highwaters and Repelskii), Gold Fish (Alberto Pretto / Nina Immobilashvili), Corals, Genie (Nicholas Kachafallenjar) and the Queen of the Underwater (bulky veteran Trock Robert Carter / Olga Supphozova remarkably light on his/her feet).
The tallest one of the bunch Thake uses the heads of shorter colleagues for support and all the while smiles beatifically at us. The Corals, Snizova and Enimenimynimova, are outstanding. Carter / Supphozova knocks off some fouettés to roars from the crowd. There’s terrific pointe work as well as pointed exposure of the silliness of some of classical ballet’s fantastical inspirations.
The evening ends generously with an encore—"New York, New York" sung by a chorus line of all the performers dressed as the Statue of Liberty. I said it was vaudeville… or Radio City Music Hall. Heart-warming.