Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the Balboa
If the comedy group Monte Python were a ballet company it might be something like Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the hilarious all-male troupe that graced the Balboa Theatre Thursday night. Founded by ballet-loving guys back in 1974 and led by artistic director Tory Dobrin, the company specializes in dance parodies that take clichés to the extreme.
Muscled men in stiff tutus dance en pointe, often with chest hair peeking out of an extra-wide bodice. Dancers take on ridiculous Russian personas that constantly spill out, even in regal corps sequences. There are plenty of gags that make fun of choreography, pantomime, or an iconic dance diva. Some gestures, no surprise, cater to a gay male audience, such as grabbing a rear end.
But mostly, the Trocks approach dance with broad humor and ironic reverence that is their own. This production was the best of its kind.
The program of four dances (and a few surprises) began with a the second act of “Swan Lake,” complete with a lakeside backdrop, Tchaikovsky’s score, and some obnoxious frog croaking. Yuri Smirov (Robert Carter) played Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer with spiked hair who stunned his victims with electricity pulsing out of his fingers. Padre fans surely thought of the San Diego Chicken, the team’s crazed, unofficial mascot.
For dance aficionados, the object of the game was to catch amplified details and blunders. Donned in a bad white wig, Prince Siegfried, danced by Ashley Romanoff-Titwillow (Joshua Grant) was a huffy and thick partner for Odette the swan queen, danced by a flashy and conceited Lariska Dumbchenko (Rafael Morra) who thrilled with vertical extensions, fouette turns and near misses. She slapped the floor with her hands when a plunging fish dive went wrong. The admirable corps waved and grinned, tumbled and galloped.
But the men really can dance and act. “Patterns in Space” was a tribute to the late choreographer Merce Cunningham and musician John Cage. Dressed in sporty attire, a trio captured the post-modern angles and stares. Two impeccable characters that portrayed new age musicians were the heart of the piece. Seated on chairs, the pair created dorky sound effects that included popping inflated paper bags and bubble wrap. With each little accomplishment they congratulated each other with serious sighs.
“La Vivandiere Pas de Six” lampooned giant bends at the waist known as penches, so often seen in older ballets. It also featured Ketevan Losifidi (Long Zou) in solid beats and leaps, and the big twist was having the tiny man partner with a giant woman.
In “Paquita,” after Petipa, the troupe appeared in a rainbow of tutus, some with extra small trunks to expose more buttocks. It took three to lift the principal ballerina, and the weakling cavalier took a quick break for some pushups.
The tone of the show was that laughing out loud is good for the soul – don’t take dance too seriously – and parody is flattery. Yes, the “in drag” novelty and flirty cavorting became somewhat dull by the final third, but staging and pacing were clever.
An unexpected visit from a spindly Dying Swan broke up the two intermissions. And for the final bows, the company members proved their versatility with a rousing swipe at Riverdance. They held their chests high and pounded their feet as smoke poured over the stage. That last moment of humor and powerful technique defined Trockadero, an experience that everyone should try at least once.
About the author: Kris Eitland has contributed to sandiego.com since 2006. Her critiques and features have appeared in local and national publications including Dance Magazine, TheatreForum, Dance San Diego Magazine, and San Diego CityBeat. She received Excellence in Journalism awards from the San Diego Press Club in 2007 and 2009.