The Trocks are never a drag, but can they surpass Scottish Ballet for David Dougill?
A cod Russian voice makes a familiar pre-performance announcement: “All our ballerinas are in vyery, vyery good moods tonight.” And we are back in the wacky world of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – or the Trocks, as New York’s all-male troupe are affectionately known.
Having them at the Peacock for their first London season in five years is as delightful and comfortable as catching up with old friends. You scan the programme to make sure none of your favourite fake names (with their witty fictitious biographies) is missing.
Who, having witnessed it, could forget the beaky countenance and teetering legs of the extraordinary Ida Nevasayneva (alias Paul Ghiselin), moulting lugubriously through her Dying Swan party piece before collapsing in convulsions, stricken with avian flu? To then see a “proper” performance of Fokine’s original solo for Pavlova could only be a letdown.
The Trocks specialise in parodies of ballet’s clichés, conventions and mannerisms, but the jokes work because original choreography is preserved as well as subverted – and, above all, because these remarkable dancers can perform all the steps on pointe. In their Swan Lake, Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) is a hairy-chested Odette, but she is also accomplished: she dances Odette’s lakeside solo “straight”, a technical tour de force.
The ballerinas look ravishing in pink tulle for Le Grand Pas de Quatre, a revision of Jules Perrot’s 1845 number in which the four great ladies of the Romantic ballet performed together on the London stage. Gerd Törd (Bernd Burgmaier) pulls rank as Taglioni, with a will of iron beneath her sylph-like demeanour. Maria Gertrudes Clubfoot (a ballerina claiming Native American descent, aka Edgar Cortes) is divinely coquettish as Cerrito, and the chaps playing Grahn and Grisi are as beautiful as they are clever.
Each Trocks bill includes a mystery pas de deux: last Tuesday’s was Balanchine’s Tarantella (to the lively tunes of Gottschalk), in which Lionel Droguet, in the male role, did all the tricky steps with laddish flair, and Sveltlana Lofatkina (Fernando Medina- Gallego) amazed with her fouettés.
The triumphant climax to this, the first of two programmes, is Petipa’s dazzling Paquita, to Minkus’s luscious music. With its handsome designs and an array of gorgeous tutus, many a normal company might envy this. The Trocks give it the full glamour treatment. There is no shortage of fun – the principal ballerina’s sudden somersault would never have won Petipa’s approval – but all the variations are danced with accomplishment and so convincingly that you forget, or can’t believe, that these are indeed men.
In authentic tradition, the Trocks reserve their finest ballerina, Olga Supphozova, until last. She is Robert Carter, archly disdainful of her mimsy cavalier, but performing the sequences of historic choreography with grand style and accuracy, stunningly secure in multiple pirouettes. The audience whoop as if in a music hall, but what Supphozova is engaged in is serious business.
The curtain number is a glitter-ball boogie with back flips. If you haven’t seen the Trocks before, don’t miss this chance. Go and join the devoted fans.