The hairy-chested Odette in feathers and tutu (Fernando Medina Gallego) spoofed her own flirting with the Swan Lake’s Prince, winking at the sold-out crowd at the Lensic Performing Arts Centerin Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Prince (Josh Grant) played his role straight…an ironic word choice when describing a company of men who dance both female and male roles, depending on what the repertory demands. Their humor is droll, in the spirit of Victor Borge in toe shoes meets Monty Python in tutu.
Besides the ongoing comedy, a through – theme in the first act was the vaudevillian-style Dying Swan. Larisa Dumbchenka (Raffaele Morra) rushed back onstage to end of the first act, with a most gymnastic routine: she would preen, bow, look appalled as she shed a molt of feathers, sink to the stage, fold her wings over herself, bow again and die again and bow again and generally wring well-deserved belly laughs from the audience.
Irina Koslesterolikova, Marat Legupski, Marina Plezegetovstageskaya — their faux Russian female names tweak the names of classical 19th century prima ballerinas, but the thirty-four year old company has an international cast of vibrant dancers: besides American, French, Canadian, Australian, Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Colombian, Israeli, Chinese.
Over two decades ago, I saw this company in New York and St. Louis. Still based in New York, they are welcomed the world over, newly cast, not exactly dewy but still vivid with a concept that, because the Trocks retain their fine classical balletic technique and programming, they can be as over-the-top and devilishly funny as they wish.
The concert included two 19th century ballets, “La Vivandiere” introduced at Her Majesty’s Theater in London to the Pas de Six” with an original Bohemian polka, and “Majisimas” with music by Jules Massenet, that featured classical ballet influenced by the dignity of a traditional Spanish dance that had been integrated into the second act of “El Cid,” an 1885 opera.
Oh those big feet in pink toe shoes, especially when the damoiselles dropped their heels (clunk) to a flat-footed walk across the stage, or came down heavy on their heels in time with Tchaikovsky’s rhythm. Oh, those well- muscled arms when, for effect, the shortest, thinnest men in “La Vivandiere”, clad in velvet waistcoats, dark tights and soft ballet slippers, assumed the princely form to partner the “ballerinas” and by the dance’s conclusion, were swept up by the princesses, ending in the royal-skirted laps. The principal dancers, Joseph Jeffries as Minnie Van Driver and Long Zou as Ketevan Losidfidi, were joined by a Corps de Ballet.
Perhaps the most droll spoof, “Patterns in Space,” took Merce Cunningham’s choreography, an austere modern work, and employed three blank-faced dancers doing minimalist moves (Calvin Gentry as Helen Highwaters, Or Sagi as Maria Paranova and Christopher Montoya as Ilya Bobonikov,) with two more dancers as very somber modern musicians (Rafaella Mora as Pepe Dufka and Fernando Medina Gallego as R.M. Prince Myshkin) playing John Cage’s rich array of instruments which began conservatively with castanets and ended with bonkers found-instruments (kazoos, water spray, popped balloon) and sounds (cow, sheep, chicken).
After a concert of high-jinks artfully interspersed within serious technique, the audience wasn’t prepared for the serious mood of “Magisimas,” so that when the ballerinos snapped open their Spanish fans, a ripple of giggles sped through the audience, until they realized this work was the real thing. The restrained, graceful and sensual dignity of the Jules Massenet work was danced by the full company.
Jacques d’ Ambrosia, Ida Nevasayneva, Vanya Verikosa, Svetlana Lofatkina…imagine the haute humor at some future retirement haven for these divas. Brava/Bravo.