Reviews

Classical drag is anything but

Susan Reiter, Newsday
Posted on

Everyone will find a personal favorite diva amid the divine array of old-world glamour known as Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Who can resist the fierce bravura of Olga Supphozova (aka Robert Carter), the troupe’s feisty platinum blonde, who attacked three major roles on opening night with an air of gleeful wonder, making multiple pirouettes look like child’s play? Or the perpetually molting “Dying Swan” of Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), always sure to flash the audience a sweet smile in between her over-the-top death throes? Or the determined attack of Margeaux Mundeyn (Yonny Manaure), whose brawny build, swathed in white tulle, threatened to overwhelm her pale slip of a partner in “Les Sylphides”?

For these two weeks, Les Cagelles of Broadway’s “La Cage aux Folles” are no longer the only guys in town displaying glamorous gams and eye makeup out to there. But the 18 men of the Trocks – each of whom inhabits both a male and female “Russian” persona on the company roster – have strong ballet technique, and they can pull off demanding choreography in pointe shoes.

When Supphozova, Colette Adae (Jason Hadley) and Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra), resplendent in emerald tutus, take on the virtuosic “Pas des Odalisques” from “Le Corsaire,” you see much the same choreography as you would in American Ballet Theatre’s production. They ham it up a bit, of course – one enters a bit too soon, one overemphasizes her arm gestures, and in the finale Dumbchenko’s turns a jumping sequence into a flailing cartoon. But there’s no doubt about it, these gals have the chops.

The Trocks love to embody and parody the long-vanished grand manner and absurd mannerisms that were de rigueur for ballerinas of another era. In “Les Sylphides,” their version of the 1909 Fokine classic, that may mean breaking the mood of languid romanticism with a “tada, I did it!” display of triumph, or mercilessly knocking over an ensemble member who’s reclining painfully in a tableau – and who, naturally, is then wary each time her tormentor comes near.

The Trocks are marking their 30th anniversary, and the program included one of its classics, founder Peter Anastos’ “Go for Barocco.” First seen in 1975, this clever Balanchine parody compresses and lovingly sends up Mr. B’s sublime “Concerto Barocco,” tossing in as many other Balanchine references as possible. These six “women” (no partners needed here!) may not manage to intertwine their arms without getting tangled, but they sure can power-walk.

In the first of two New York City premieres, Pamela Pribisco’s “after Balanchine” staging of “Tarantella” stayed close to the original in its high-flying, tambourine-whacking energy. Sveltlana Lofatkina Fernando Medina Gallego) and the adorable Vladimir Legupski (Lionel Droguet) brought down the house. The ambitious and charmingly designed Underwater Scene from “The Humpback Horse” was a Technicolor parade of sea creatures, including two starfish wearing eyeglasses and a pair of dancing corals. The original Russian ballet dates back to 1864, though Elena Kunikova’s deft staging is based on slightly later versions.

Sylphia Belchick (Carlos Garcia), a petite dynamo, blazed through rapid-fire turns as the Gold Fish. Supphozova was the commanding Queen of the Underwater, her diagonal line of powerful leaps confirming her power. Marat Legupski (Scott deCola) was the sleek, fantastical Genie of the Underwater.

Kenneth Brisbin’s lovingly detailed costumes included headpieces that resembled algae for the sprightly six-member ensemble. There were whimsical moments, but here the dancing was mostly played straight, in a performance marked by the Trocks’ abiding affection for lavish scenarios and fairy-tale characters.

As though they had not already delivered enough giddy delight, the company turned themselves into Rockettes for an adorable holiday-themed encore.

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO. “Les Sylphides,” “Pas des Odalisques” from “Le Corsaire,” “Go for Barocco,” “Tarantella,” “The Dying Swan,” Underwater Scene from “The Humpback Horse.” Two programs alternate through Jan. 2 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave. at 19th Street, Manhattan. Tickets, $42. Call 212-242-0800 or visit www .joyce.org. Seen Tuesday.