Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo – or The Trocks as they are better known – make jokes about the art of theatre dance, classical ballet in particular. The fact that all the girls in tulle and tutus, dancing on point are actually boys with hairy chests spilling out of their tight bodices triggers the opening salvo of hilarity and applause from the audience.
But the nub of the humour is the affectionate parody of great choreographers and their styles. This may be no more than taking genuine steps to extremes and throwing in a couple of pratfalls, but at its best, it is more intricate and subtle.
This program has more subtlety than I have seen on the Trocks’ last few visits from the United States. It is also better danced than last time: you have to be very good to play around with iconic styles and steps yet maintain template.
The evening starts with a knockabout Act II of Swan Lake – a guaranteed audience pleaser – then deliciously sends up choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage in Patterns in Space.
Two onstage “musicians” steal the scene outrageously with their parade of unlikely musical “instruments”, making “music” any way they can think of – from rustling paper bags to gargling – as three dancers walk about tith studied solemnity. Yes, mush as I loved them some Cunningham pieces could be like that.
Go for Barocco, choreographically by Peter Anastos with an eye to the legendary George Balanchine, remains the company’s greatest piece, done skillfully and lovingly so that you laughed while admiring the mimicry.
Stars and Stripes, a pas de deux, sends up the self-conscious patriotism of a strand of American musicals in great style. The Dying Swan, another company “classic”, is more than an old chook staggering to its last gasp in a cloud of feathers. And funny.
Majisimas, a Spanish-style confection to familiar music from Massanet’s opera, El Cid, is pleasant enough and gets 16 dancers on stage for the finale. Pity it doesn’t end the program with a flourish but by that time you could declare it a fond farewell on both sides.