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The Trocks Will Knock Your Socks Off

Written by Mariko Nagashima

Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo in Walpurgis Night
Photo by Sascha Vaughn

To attend a performance of Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo is to throw ballet convention out the window and have a darn good time doing it. For those not familiar with the company, they are an all-male troupe that performs spoofs on ballet’s most iconic works–tutus, tiaras, pointe shoes, and all. Hilarity promptly ensues. And it’s not just the sight of chest hair popping out of bodices or stocky muscled legs balancing delicately en pointe, it’s how acutely (and good-naturedly) they poke fun at all of classical ballet’s entrenched conventions. This makes it rip-roaring entertainment for ballet aficionados, but it’s just as delightful for the ballet novice. By exaggerating the idiosyncrasies of classical ballet, the Trocks (as the troupe is affectionately nicknamed) make the art form accessible and fun: exactly what ballet needs if it is to stay relevant in today’s dance world. The group continues their performances at UW’s Meany Hall May 18, 2013, as the final dance installment in this year’s UW World Series.

From the first announcement, which sounds a bit like a heavily accented Russian version of Miss Piggy, the program set a tone of over-the-top camp and had the audience howling. Their take on Act II of Swan Lake included a stricken looking Von Rothbart (Marat Legupski), a perfectly vain Prince Siegfried (Mischa Youloutski), a not-so-fragile Odette (Lariska Dumbchenko), and a flock of pecking swans. The music was a smorgasbord of Swan Lake‘s greatest hits, and the choreography consistently twisted iconic moments to humorous effect. Swimming arms were added as the swans scooted across the stage with one leg in arabesque, a rogue hip-hopping swan disrupted the synchronicity of The Four Little Swans variation, and the mime included Odette fake vomiting after one too many pirouettes. As silly as the gags were, the dancing was anything but frivolous. The dancers are all highly skilled technicians and executed the most difficult of steps with precision.  

Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo in Swan Lake Act II
Photo by Sascha Vaughn

Next came a faithful rendering of the pas de deux from Don Quixote with Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) as Kitri and Andrei Leftov (Boysie Dikobe) as Basilio. The Trocks have a truly remarkable dancer in Hopuy. His well-arched feet achieve an elegant line en pointe, his port de bras has a distinct fluidity, and he jumps with astounding buoyancy. His Kitri had enough zest to rival the feistiest of interpretations. Perhaps it’s the exaggerated nature of a Trockadero performance with its big, bold dancing, or perhaps it’s just the vigor of these particular performers, but Hopuy and Dikobe take risks on stage that one simply doesn’t see in a traditional ballet setting. This can create some dazzling fireworks (like Hopuy starting his set of rapid fire fouettés with a quadruple turn), but it also makes one more forgiving of the occasional wobble (which happened in some landings from jumps). Whatever these dancers do, they do it all out, and it makes for a tangibly more exciting show.

The most entertaining piece on the program, Peter Anastos’ Go For Barocco, parodied all things George Balanchine and neoclassical dance in general. Though the structure echoed Balanchine’s masterpiece, Concerto Barocco, Anastos has peppered it with references to Agon, Apollo, Serenade, and even the slinky walks of the siren from The Prodigal Son. The dancers linked hands and wove in and out of each other á la Concerto, stopping for the soloists to poke their heads through and pose merrily as if in a picture frame. The use of symmetry leads to hilarity as each side mirrors the other in perfect time with Bach’s energetic melodies. A speedwalking section and a quiet rivalry where the two soloists put one hand on top of the other, each trying to be the last on top, were particularly delightful.

Another highlight of the evening was the Dying Swan performed by Carlos Renedo, aka Maria Paranova. The “dying” aspect of the piece was accentuated by her molting feather tutu and the sudden clutching of her hamstring after a particularly high extension, all amidst flailing swan arms. A Trock staple, this parody managed to carry some of the original’s poignancy, but delivered more than a few laughs. Walpurgis Night closed the show with a display of Greek splendor. A Dionysian romp filled with toga-clad maidens, mischievous fauns, lusciously waltzing nymphs, and two Apollonian gods, the dancers created a scene of uproarious revelry and merriment. Though still humorous, Walpurgis fell a little flatter than the other pieces, partly because some of the novelty of their schtick had worn off, and partly because it was a parody of a lesser known work.

The Dying Swan
Photo by Sascha Vaughn

It sometimes seems that contemporary ballet works try to modernize ballet through abstraction, which can isolate audiences who fear not “getting it.” The Trocks, however, make ballet relevant by utilizing the original classical structure and capitalizing on the silly conventionalities of the ballet world which everyone can laugh about. By trading ballet’s pretentiousness for campy hilarity, the troupe delivers serious and impressive dance with fresh enthusiasm; it’s a pure treat to see.

Performances continue tonight, May 18, at Meany Hall. Tickets are available here. More information on Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo can be found here.