New York’s all-male comedy ballet troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo — “the Trocks” — have, in their 41-year history, become world-famous. In Japan, they are a cult. It’s always heartwarming to have these glamorously funny personalities back in town; their first London visit in five years opened at the Peacock Theatre last week, with a big UK tour to follow.
You don’t expect much change with the Trocks, though there are many new dancers since they were last here. The formula is time-hallowed, and so are the jokes. “All our ballerinas are in vyeri good moods tonight” is one of the pre-performance announcements in a cod-Russian accent that seasoned Trock-watchers know by heart, but they still raise a laugh — and there will always be newcomers to these programmes who will have a deliriously good time.
Although there are some slants on modern ballet in their repertoire, the Trocks’ stock in trade is the 19th-century classics, which they honour and send up at the same time. The costumes, by the late designer Mike Gonzales, include gorgeous tutus that would be the envy of straight ballet companies. The ballerinas’ make-up, not to mention eyelashes, can be seen a mile off.
In the opening programme, Swan Lake Act II, the Trocks’ signature ballet, was led by Philip Martin-Nielson, in the persona of Nadia Doumiafeyva as Odette. (You may have to read the fake names aloud to catch all the cunning, punning jokes.) Like all the boys, he was dazzling in the authentic pointe work, lacing it with wicked looks, tantrums and rivalries, incorporated on stage from backstage. Among this array of disruptive swans with attitude, the male roles were taken by two of the five Legupski “brothers” in the troupe.
In the Corsaire pas de deux, Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) was partnered by Araf Legupski (Laszlo Major) — and it was the latter who most astonished in his classical pyrotechnics, adding somersaults and splits to the original choreography. Petipa’s La Esmeralda pas de six starred Nina Immobilashvili (pseudo-Georgian, aka Alberto Pretto), luscious in dancing, droopingly dolorous in grief, in the company of a quartet of fright-wigged gypsies, one of them eating a banana.
The Dying Swan is a regular speciality number: she enters, caught by a vagrant spotlight, shedding feathers all over the place in the throes of a terminal moult. Eugenia Repelskii (Joshua Thake) is the current interpreter, heading for her swan’s abrupt death. The great Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), unforgettable in this role, is not on this tour.
The best illustration of the Trocks’ ability to dance the classic ballets with full technical accomplishment is Petipa’s Paquita. The ensemble (of intriguingly varied sizes) make a sunny, spirited entrance. You may notice belatedly that one wears glasses, but what’s funny is that nothing is made of it. Yakatarina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) dances the leading role with radiance and grandeur. Not until she screams at her cavalier’s sudden appearance is that mood interrupted. With her brilliant fouettés and air of unforced authority, she was the star ballerina of the evening.
This week’s second programme includes the UK premiere of a Trock-treated Don Quixote, also to be featured throughout the tour.