The Trocks have become a much-loved comic turn on the dance circuit – and like all familiar treats, they are required never, ever to change. The basic joke of men dancing in tutus has become, through their expert handling, one of the longest running gags in the theatre. But as the Trocks show in their opening London programme, their success is also based on a very artful mixing of the old and new.
They start with their trademark number, Act II of Swan Lake. Camp and corny slapstick abounds, as heavy-footed cygnets fall over themselves, girly Prince Siegfried moons around the stage and Odette works overtime on her eyelash-fluttering ballerina skills while fending off Von Rothbart in his mad carrot top wig.
But on top of the basic comedy are layers and layers of more sophisticated ballet jokes, ranging from the earnest presence of Benno as the Prince’s sidekick (an essential figure in the 1895 production) to a lovingly detailed parody of Russian Imperial style, with its swooning artifice of flashing eyes, arching backs and wanton épaulement. Not only do the Trocks know ballet history, they are junkies for its aesthetic.
Having got the crowd happy, the dancers are then free to lose much of the slapstick and work their genius for pastiche and parody. The programme continues with a Petipa-inspired pas de trois and two works new to London. The Trovatiara Pas de Cinq (choreographed to Verdi) is a delicious send-up of romantic opera ballets and their fascination with exotic foreign women. Three large pirate girls, jangling with bells and earrings and clutching daggers between their teeth, dance with two tiny male corsairs. The humour is nearly all in the steps but there is added comedy in the fact that when the tallest ballerina is partnered by her twin corsairs, the latter barely reach her waist.
The evening ends with Majisimas – a “tribute” to the National Ballet of Cuba. Stylistically this number is a perfect Cuban fusion of hot Latin attitude and old Soviet flounce and what’s interesting is that while it features hardly any gags, it still wins adoring applause. The reason is the dancing. The Trocks’ technique certainly doesn’t reach the standard of the world’s loftier ballet companies. Yet they perform with so much personality and verve that they make certain of their colleagues look like sleepwalkers by comparison.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Until October 4, 2008 Then touring