'One of the most unusually gifted dance companies in existence.'

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo thrill Japanese audience ★★★★★ +

Louise Levene / Financial Times - May 28, 2024

Need-to-know Japanese vocabulary: utsukushi (beautiful); kanpeki (perfect); oishii (delicious) – all three of which could be used to describe the Trocks’ visit to Yokohama on Sunday afternoon.

The all-male Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is 50 this year, and has been visiting Japan since 1982; the current tour is their 32nd. The country is a big ballet consumer and exporter- the Royal Ballet alone has three Japanese principals- and visiting troupes are always popular, but “gender-skewering” (the Trocks’ term) has an added appeal in the land of the onnagata, the fragrant male heroines of the kabuki theatre.

The predominantly female fan base established in the early 1980s has stayed loyal to the Trocks, returning with children and grandchildren to savour the bravura technique and deadpan comic timing timing of the new generation of dancers. The repertoire remains the usual canny mix of ancient and modern. Warmed up by a pratfalling Swan Lake Act 2, the audience is then treated to a second act of shorter works and extracts, followed by a grand final of twirling tutus.

Read more

Glorious and Giddy – Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo +

Liz Coggins / The Leeds Guide - Oct 19, 2022

As a seasoned hack and a theatre critic my friends and colleagues will tell you it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud when watching a performance – in fact I can count the times on one hand in the last few years, despite reviewing literally 100’s of shows, that this has happened.

But even before the actual performance by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo had began I found myself actually laughing out loud at the pre-show announcements.

For years I had been promising myself I must see ‘The Trocks’ as they are called but something job related always got in the way but on their first visit for four years my wish was granted.

The first ballet of the Bradford repertoire was Swan Lake Act 2. This was an outstanding piece but to see it danced so technically well was a piece of theatrical brilliance.

It’s hard for men to perform on point as their feet are long and this puts added pressure on their bodies. The entrance of Von Rothbert I found particularly humorous as he did the usual leaps and then stopped to catch his breath and carried on. This for me was a touch of subtle brilliance as this role is usually played by an older dancer in most companies now specialising in character dancing.

I was transfixed. The rest of the programme including A Vivaldi Suite, The Dying Swan and a specially created piece in the classical mode Raymonda’s Wedding was filled with exceptional dancing and high technical standards.. The dances are all pure gold each laced with a subtle humour, wonderful facial expressions and subtle humour that reduce the audience to laughter.

 

Read more

Review: The Trocks Delight with Fabulous Charm +

Alastair Macaulay / The New York Times - Dec 15, 2016

Ballet is a completely absurd art — and we love it to pieces: that’s what Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo proclaims with every move. The divas and cavaliers of this all-male troupe are — as they present themselves to us in performance — fabulously stupid, artificial, hammy, clichéd, superficial, dated, monstrous. But they simply adore dancing and their audiences, even more than they love makeup and costumes. So, while you laugh at their demented antics, you find yourself watching them with a special tenderness. You’re on their side.

The absurdity and the adorability are perfectly fused in the latest addition to the Trockadero repertory, the pas de six from August Bournonville’s “Napoli” (1842). This production of a dance, made for four women and two men, casts two of its tiniest members as the men, and, despite their male attire, renders them somewhat more feminine in manners and makeup than their four ballerina companions. This is immediately funny, and some of the consequent jokes are funnier: When the men take turns lifting the women, the fourth and largest ballerina solves the imbalance by lifting him instead.

But both the women and the men love Bournonville’s dances, and take wonderful trouble about detailed points of style. There are numerous passages here that aren’t comic — they’re simply joyous. And to watch divas and divos in bliss delights the audience. And then along comes an assortment of other jokes. When one ballerina is doing rather too well in a long solo variation, another one tries — unsuccessfully — to trip her. As yet another ballerina pauses on flat feet to prepare for a multiple pirouette, her features show an expression of goggle-eyed terror: It lasts less than a second, the pirouette goes just fine, and she sweetly resumes the marvelously long, complex phrases of her dance.

The Trocks (as the dance world knows them) are dancing out the old year with a three-week season at the Joyce Theater; there are two programs. Program A, which opened on Tuesday, was announced as a quadruple bill, but was rendered quintuple at short notice by the addition of “The Dying Swan,” a staple of Trocks repertory, in which the ballerina’s tutu molts enough feathers to stuff pillows. She (Maria Paranova) finds time to wave at her audience, but, in her own Trockish way, she takes acting — her idea of acting — very seriously indeed: She executes industrial quantities of swannishness, and gorges herself on the swan’s death throes.

“The Dying Swan” (Saint-Saëns music) seldom shares a program with “Le Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II)” (Tchaikovsky music). But here both occur. It’s in “Swan Lake” that I get most bewildered about which sex these performers really are. Prince Siegfried (Vladimir Legupski) and his confidant Benno (Pepe Dufka) have such splendid maquillage. I love the prince’s hairpin, too; and cherish the long sequence when he slowly crosses the stage, pointing his legs and feet elaborately, stretching them straight from the hips like spears — to silence, while nothing else happens. The swans, meanwhile, several of whom have hairy chests visible above their tutus, throw themselves into their dances and their swan behavior with enchanting aggression.

As the Swan Queen, Yakaterina Verbosovich’s often more absurd than anyone, but no less often she’s an outstandingly good dancer. Those quivering petits battements serrés at the end of the adagio, in which the ballerina beats one foot rapidly beside her ankle, like the rapid fluttering of a wingtip, surpass those by quite a number of “real” ballerinas. The amalgam of ballerina finesse and daft diva antics is brilliant, unsettling, riveting: the epitome of Trocks style.

“Patterns in Space” (“choreography after Merce Cunningham”) — the title is a play on Cunningham’s 1986 “Points in Space” — goes straight for all that’s nuttiest about the separation of dance and music in the Cunningham ethos. Lariska Dumbchenko and Yuri Smirnov are the musicians, seated on one side of the stage, and they’re far more solemn than any Cunningham musician ever was, gloriously intense in their percussion effects and farmyard noises.

The program ends with “Raymonda’s Wedding,” a plotless divertissement that nonetheless brilliantly evokes the inexplicable silly story of Marius Petipa’s 1898 ballet. The White Lady (Ida Nevasayneva) presiding graciously over the nuptial celebrations, which, though occurring in Provence, are danced in Hungarian style. The Trocks adopt intensely Hungarian dance behavior (every hand-clapping, head-shaking czardas mannerism) when they remember. Petipa left out fouetté turns, so they rectify that omission; and their joy is infectious.

The best-timed joke of the whole evening comes when Raymonda’s husband, Jean de Brienne (Boris Mudko), runs, mid-exit, straight into a wing and falls flat. Never fear: he’s soon up and dancing. Fire, flood, illness, trauma — nothing could stop Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo from dancing, and all for you, you, you.

Read more

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo Review: Laughter Is a Given, the Impressive Technique is a Bonus +

Nadia Vostrikov / Ballet Herald - Dec 17, 2021

The magic of Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo is guaranteed to warm any frozen heart that dares walk into their show.

The curtain rises on Von Rothbart in the moonlit woods (notably lit by Kip Marsh). Performed by Jacques D’Aniels (Joshua Thake), he brings a creepy, goofiness to the already absurd character of Von Rothbart. Thake executes clean lines in his arabesques and builds drama by running around the stage, eventually exiting stage left pulling a wooden swan on a string off with him. Additional gags include swan noises, slapping, a croaking frog soundtrack, and alluding to swan poop on the stage.

A quintessential Trock piece, their Swan Lake Act II is superb in tone, taste, and technique.

Read more

'We came to laugh, but we stayed to worship.'

The Delightful, Rebellious Rise of The Ballets Trockadero +

Megan Pugh / The New Republic - Nov 28, 2017

Partway through Rebels on Pointe– Bobbi Jo Hart’s marvelous documentary about the all-male, comic, drag dance company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo- dancer Raffaele Morra teaches a master class to a roomful of elderly women. Some have shown up in tutus and slippers, others wear sweats, many have never taken a ballet lesson. “That’s not important at all,” Morra reassures them. “What’s important is that it’s you, expressing yourself.” And thus, Morra welcomes them in to the famous Dying Swan solo, choreographed by Mikael Fokine for Anna Pavlova in 1905. He demonstrates the extended bourrées, the tilted head, and the impossibly liquid arms. The women do their best approximations. Technically, they aren’t very good, but it’s a beautiful scene: a flock of unlikely but unabashed swans, flying into history.

Read more

The Trocks please Zellerbach Hall with comedic parody, classical pointe work +

Lauren Harvey / The Daily Californian - Jan 30, 2024

On Jan. 28, the Trocks returned yet again to UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with a glorious program of “Swan Lake, Act II,” “Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet,” “The Dying Swan,” “Paquita” and a pas de deux. Bold in scope, the performance beautifully demonstrated the ballet troupe’s diverse and multiform skill set.

The Trocks ended the night with French-style “Paquita.” As the curtains rose, they revealed regal red drapery hanging over the stage, prompting audible “ooohs” from the audience. Though certain moments still came across as distinctly comedic — such as when a dancer was facing the wrong way and subtly (and unsuccessfully) tried to change without the audience noticing — this segment of the performance stood out due to the sheer amount of skill exhibited.

While watching the Trocks, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re observing a parody. With each turn and leap across the stage, the dancers display their keen attention to detail and form — they just so happen to do so in a laughter-inducing way.

Read more

Drag dance in Austin? Ballets Trockadero has been en pointe and in tutus for 50 years +

Michael Barnes / Austin American-Statesman - Jan 17, 2024

Amid the recent fracas about drag performance as a threat to the social fabric, historians remind us that the practice of cross-gender performance on the stage goes back to the earliest days of theater in ancient Greece.

And if later it was good enough for Shakespeare’s day, when women’s characters were played by young males, it was still an intriguing option during the 19th century, when those gender roles were reversed by women in “breeches parts.”

Transgressive? Not always. Funny? If done for comedy and done right.

Which might help explain why an all-male dance troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, is now romping through its 50th year of dance hilarity — and high skills — during extensive tours around the world.

Read more

Houston Performing Arts Goes On Pointe with The Trocks +

Sam Byrd / HoustonPress - Jan 19, 2024

Their makeup in on point(e). They dance on pointe. But there is something slightly off yet sinfully funny about them. That’s right, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (or The Trocks, as they are lovingly referenced) will return to Jones Hall on January 23 with skillful dance work and and hilarious takes on beloved ballets.

Read more

The Trocks are back… gags honed over half a century +

Gramilano - Apr 22, 2023

Ah, the Trocks are back in Milan. Our paths have crossed so many times… in Milan, London, Paris. How I’ve missed you.

The company was last at the Teatro Arcimboldi in Milan in 2016. There were many new faces this time, though it is wonderful to see that Robert Carter (aka Olga Supphozova) is still with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo after 28 seasons. He makes me giggle just from his fussing-around walk, and I’ve bent double with laughter at his spectacular turn in Paquita.

Paquita wasn’t on the programme this time around, though the Swan Lake evergreen was. Takaomi Yoshino (Varvara Laptopova) made for a spectacular Odette, with an enviable technique and extraordinarily fast and controlled turns with minimum help from her prince… the stylistic jokes with exaggerated positions and Soviet-style attitude, mixed with knowing streetwise gestures, milk every laugh possible after years of fine-tuning. The cygnets, with the rebellious one pulling in the opposite direction and with her head coordination completely off, is a hit, and a sequence where she has her back to the audience was new to me.

Read more

New Year, Old Ballets: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo light up New York +

Faye Arthurs / Fjord Review - Jan 3, 2023

After the comfort-food programming of December, January tends to kick off with prestige offerings and new works. So it was unusual that the first dance show I saw in 2023 featured timeworn ballet standards like “The Dying Swan” and “Paquita.” These warhorses were being performed by the Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, however, so they were not exactly pablum. And to be fair, I caught the Trocks in the third week of their run at the Joyce Theater; so this was, in part, feel-good holiday programming. But though the Trocks have been affectionately spoofing ballet en travesti since 1974, the jokes still feel fresh. That’s the beauty—and a flaw—of ballet: it really hasn’t changed all that much since the days of the Sun King. The dance world, however, has altered dramatically since the Trocks’ inception. Men have begun to don pointe shoes in mainstream companies and schools, and I wondered if the Trocks’ mockery would read as dated now. But their zany wit is as evergreen as the classics they were satirizing. And though the foundation of their humor is the fact that they are men on pointe, it is not the end of it. They don’t just demonstrate how silly men look in pointe shoes and tutus, they show how silly everyone appears in pointe shoes and tutus. Their thesis is that ballet itself is ridiculous, and they are quite right. But they make their point with love, joy, and dedicated craftsmanship.

At a time when resolutions and rebirth are in the air, the Trocks’ satirical yet loving take on classical ballet was a good reminder that we can and must aim for better, but we cannot escape or deny the past. The art of ballet is inherently flawed, but we can look to the Trocks’ example of acceptance and inventive adaptation. Critical examination combined with humor is one of the most powerful agents of change.

Read more

Ham, Eggs and the Holy Grail +

Leigh Witchel / dancelog.nyc - Jan 13, 2023

Way back when at the Ballet Russes, a crowd-pleasing program done again and again was nicknamed “ham and eggs.” Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo returned for its holiday visit to the Joyce, bringing eggs and plenty of ham. The bulk of the program was classics, three out of the four involving swans.

Act 2 of “Swan Lake” is one of the most bulletproof works in The Trocks’ rep. As usual, it was dense with jokes, some perennial, but the dancers also added their own spin.

At its best, what makes the Trocks so beloved is the same thing that makes the best drag an art: when it’s more than just imitation but the Holy Grail of performance: a commentary on the notions and conventions of femininity that becomes possible because it’s conjured from without rather than within. But no matter how many sly in-jokes there are for the connoisseurs, the Trocks perform for plenty of people who wouldn’t know “Swan Lake” from a swan dive.

Read more

Triumphant Trocks Flirt, Fall, and Run Rampant at the Joyce +

Elizabeth Zimmer / Chelsea Community News - Dec 22, 2022

When the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974, being gay could get you into lots of trouble. The Stonewall Riots were still fresh in New Yorkers’ memories; the AIDS crisis, which decimated the original company, lay ahead. The male dancers’ portrayals of ballerinas on pointe were groundbreaking at the time, and enormous fun.

Now, nearly 50 years on, it’s clear that the culture at large is catching up with this revolutionary troupe. Issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion are on every corporate agenda; middle-schoolers are pushing against gender decisions made for them at birth. The Trocks, as they are fondly nicknamed, lead the way, giving every member a dual identity—one male, one female. Many of them even get a triple: When they play swans, they manifest nasty, hissing “birdiness” way more than ballerinas in more conventional troupes. And their fabulousness has bled itself onto the audience: On opening night at the Joyce, a guy sitting in front of me rocked a bright red cocktail dress.

Read more