The American all-male Trockadero troupe deliver plenty of comedic kicks
Raucous applause and wild cheers filled the Royal Paragon Hall on Wednesday night as the audience welcomed New-York based all-male company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, back in Bangkok for the third time in their 38-year history.
The three-part programme of two hours, two 15-minute intermissions included, was full of surprises – a good balance of balletic grace and theatrical comedy. It started with Act 2 of “Swan Lake”, the company’s signature piece and a fine introduction of the troupe’s distinctive style for those who had never seen them. The second part comprised three short pieces, “Pas de Deux”, “Grand Pas de Quatre” and “The Dying Swan”; while the finale was the fourth act of “Raymonda”.
From the beginning we witnessed the treat of highly skilled dancers who could pull off technically demanding moves but also unleash perfectly timed comedy to poke fun at the rigidity of the classical form. But, more importantly perhaps, they also had great fun in performing – and hence so did the audience, in watching. Freed of any traditional troupe hierarchy, all dancers had moments to shine and show off their diverse characters, while the jokes were timed to precision, the audience knew exactly where to focus, and there was no diva-like scene stealing.
In the end, I felt strongly that this was not caricature, but a commentary on classical ballet and how it is being taught and staged today. Young performers are being trained for amazingly long hours to perfect their skills – so much so that they lose the joy of dancing. Others master the skills only to find they lack the perfect length of limb required to land a leading role. Some end up quitting and turning to teaching dance. Meanwhile, I’ve watched many classical ballet productions with dancers who are technically brilliant but don’t know how to create character or communicate with partners and the audience – the result is little more than gymnastics.
Wednesday night also enlightened us about the process of watching ballet. You need no previous experience of classical ballet in order to enjoy the Trocks (though it’s a plus if you know the original choreography). The same cannot be said for orthodox classical ballet. A parallel that comes to mind is the popularity of lakorn nok – traditional Thai dance theatre performed in public by all-male troupes – as opposed to the high-brow lakorn nai performed at court.
One downside of the night was the venue itself. Royal Paragon Hall may have a convenient location, easily reached by car or public transportation, but this is multipurpose venue rather than the proper playhouse required for ballet performance. With the show starting right on time, the clatter of late-arriving audiences walking on temporary steel stands was annoying. More significantly, the noise of leaping ballet dancers landing on the temporary stage caused concern for their legs and ankles.
But mostly the memories will be of the immense fun we had plus the odd thought-provoking moment. We look forward to the Trocks’ next trip to Bangkok.
“Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo” continues tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 2pm and 7.30pm at Royal Paragon Hall (BTS: Siam). Tickets from Bt1,700 to Bt3,500 (Bt 900 for students) are available at ThaiTicketMajor. For more details, www.Trockadero.org.The Nation