Reviews

The Most Interesting Ballet You’ll Ever See

UrbanWire
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Esplanade Theatre

Can a young person raised on a pop culture diet actually stay awake for a 1-and-a-half-long classical ballet performance?

If the dancers are the Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, the answer is an undeniable yes.

It’s not hard to see why. The Trocks, as they’re commonly known, not only epitomise grace and poetry in motion at its very best, they’re different from all ballet dancers you have known.

For one, theirs is a troupe of entirely male dancers, who also take on all the female roles. This entails wearing tutus and dancing en pointe [on their toes using special blocked-toe ballet shoes], an elegant but torturous exercise. More importantly, they distinguish themselves through the use of campy humour, while still actively encouraging the appreciation of the classical dance form.

One minute they’re executing a series of 8 seemingly effortless pirouettes (when a dancer makes a full turn of the body on the point of the toe, with the other leg lifted so that the toe touches the upper calf) in Paquita exquisitely, the next, someone is tripping, getting the timing wrong or throwing a few hip hop moves into the mix, and in all seriousness.

It’s an incredibly clever, foolproof premise, because even if they had made genuine mistakes, the audience would have simply taken it as part of the act of parody.

No wonder the formula that has won them critical acclaim for the last 30 years. Since earning its first stellar reviews from The New York Times and The New Yorker then, the group of New York-based ballet enthusiasts have developed into a large professional company that tours the world performing at dance festivals and making television appearances.

For an exclusive period of just 5 days, The Trocks will be performing at the Esplanade (their first time in Singapore), before they dance away to Hong Kong for the next stop in their tour.

The local repertoire features excerpts from famous ballets like Swan Lake and Paquita, as well as Spring Waters (a duet), Go For Barocco (a choreography satire) and the Dying Swan, legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova’s famous solo.

With delicate features, beautiful bodices flowing into full tutus, and slender legs that stretch on forever tapering to feet encased in ballet shoes, The Trocks are a delight to watch. Proving that it is indeed possible for men to dance en pointe even if they did sound a little heavy, the dancers’ technique is superb, and the dances themselves are breathtaking in both choreography and execution.

However, as these are The Trocks, you can guarantee that there’ll be a twist to the pieces. All 15 dancers have individual, unique comic personas (with ridiculously laughable Russian names like “Sveltlana Lofatkina”) and so you’re likely to be captivated by their dancing 1 minute, and in fits of giggles the next.

What’s interesting about The Trocks is that they’re able to maintain the balance between making the dances humourous, while at the same time not mocking them. The passion and respect the dancers have for their work, really shows when they dance. The comedy is perfectly timed too, preventing audiences from becoming bored by long stretches of dancing.

No doubt no one in the audience will forget the Dying Swan solo, performed by Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), which is as enchanting as it is hilarious.

A feast for the senses, The Trocks is an excellent ballet showcase sure to delight people of all ages, and an excellent way to inculcate an interest in dance.