“We are a comedy dance company, doing a comedy dance show” stresses Tory Dobrin, Artistic Director of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, following the company’s triumphant return to Edinburgh. Indeed, this is primarily a comedy dance show, but Dobrin’s unpretentious approach inadvertently downplays the most important aspect of this company; their enormous technical prowess, as demonstrated in tonight’s repertory performance.
Affectionately known as ‘The Trocks’, the company emerged out of the New York underground drag scene of the 1970s and quickly gained cult status. Today they are one of the most popular international dance companies touring. Opening with their signature piece, Le Lac Des Cygnes, a playful parody of Swan Lake, The Trocks have tonight’s full house firmly in their grasp from the off.
Perhaps the most joyous aspect of the company’s comic power is their obvious devotion to and love of classical ballet. Villain Von Rothbart (Raffaele Morra), prances exaggeratedly around the stage in excellent mock-Russian dramatic style and Swan Queen Odette (Robert Carter) marvellously plays up the Prima Donna Ballerina, frequently cueing her willing audience for lengthy applause. Feathers fly and the dancers squawk and peck to the audience’s delight. The visual gags delight, but it’s the exceptional skill of the dancers underpinning the slick production which bewitches. Subverting expectations, the dancers gel in a manner only the most renowned classical ballet ensembles can hope for.
Act Two is a stunning blend of wit and technique, even more powerful than the former for its comparative subtlety. Go For Barocco satirises Ballenchine’s neo-classical aestheticism that was in vogue during The Trock’s genesis. The stark, minimalist style of the era is gloriously ribbed; plain costume, slow deliberate walks across the stage, smug glances at the audience.
There are however, long periods where the dancers dazzle with technical ability alone. The pointe work of the corps de ballet is invariably excellent, and again the piece flows wonderfully. Katerina Bychkova (Joshua Grant) particularly displays a grace uncommon to most company ballerinas. Through exceptional technical skill and a characteristically unpretentious attitude Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo achieve something remarkable and unique.
Undermining the lofty gender politics by their sheer brilliance, and by paying homage to the classics, they have created a genre which far outstretches the bounds of both drag and comedy; they continue to be one of the most refreshing companies around.