Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo dazzles with classical ballet, comedic drag at Zellerbach Hall +

Lauren Harvey, Senior Staff / The Daily Californian - Feb 10, 2022

It takes a certain type of talent to make an audience erupt with laughter without saying a word. With over-the-top facial expressions, stylized gestures and excellent comedic timing, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo did just that during its performance at Zellerbach Hall Feb. 5.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (colloquially known as the Trocks), is an all-male drag ballet troupe known for its gender-bending, subversive take on traditional ballet. Founded in 1974, the group has gone on to receive international recognition for stunning performances en pointe and en travesti. During its performance at Zellerbach Hall, the troupe did not disappoint, leaving the audience breathless with both amazement and laughter.

Nevertheless, one could not deny the talent of each dancer, both individually and as a group. They made performing en pointe look easy as they conquered the stage, forming beautiful lines that extended from the tips of their fingers to the points of their toes. So, when they flexed their feet and awkwardly bent their bodies, it was all the more startling — and all the more humorous.

On the surface, ballet and comedy do not immediately go together. Yet, the Trocks made this combination seem only natural, artfully leaving the audience with both laughter and gender-bending food for thought.

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Trocks’ Trove at the Joyce: Timely and Timeless, Sublime and Ridiculous +

Elizabeth Zimmer, Chelsea Community News - Dec 18, 2021

Issues of race make headlines, while issues of gender increasingly occupy the public mind. It used to be easy: Men were men and women were women and that was that.

No more, especially not in major metropolises like this one. New York—perhaps especially Chelsea—accommodates a range of gender expression, and 1974-founded Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo celebrates that range, and the battered art of ballet, in ways that delight and amuse. The program notes are hilarious, and the choreography mocks our gender expectations at every step. Artistic director Tory Dobrin often casts the smallest guys in the company in the male roles, allowing the “ballerinas” to tower over them, and sling them over their shoulders.

Opening its three-week holiday season at the Joyce with the first of two programs, the all-male Trocks, as they are affectionately known, mount ballet parodies ranging from the blunt to the rapier-sophisticated. Their version of the second act of Swan Lake features the coquette Nadia Doumiafeyva (read it out loud), a brassy blond who seems to be channeling Fran Drescher. Eight supporting swans spit and squawk, behaving more like real birds than like the scrawny dancers who usually take these parts; they range in size from petit to basketball-player, are diverse in age, color, and nationality, and can really dance. Watching them delicately battu their size 12 pointe shoes is absolutely mesmerizing. Most of them are flat-chested, but then so are most female ballet dancers.

There’s more, including the classic Dying Swan. On opening night, the standing, screaming ovation at the two-hour program’s end lasted a long time, extended when the troupe of 14 reappeared in green foam Statue of Liberty tiaras and formed a kick line, egging the audience on to further expressions of adoration.

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BWW Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater +

Cindy Sibilisky, Broadway World - Dec 17, 2021

Rejoice and deck the halls! The Trocks are back in town just in time to celebrate the holidays, break boundaries, and shake up the dance world as they have done since 1974.

To anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the unique pleasure of witnessing the iconic dance company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (aka “The Trocks”), there are two things you should know: one, they’re very fun, two, they’re really good. Another important detail that sets the Trocks apart — the all-male dance company performs both male and traditionally female classical ballet and modern roles en pointe and en travesti.

But a Trocks performance is not a drag show or a garish parody of “dudes in dresses” (I’m speaking to you, Mrs. Doubtfire on Broadway!). On the contrary, each performer is a highly-skilled dancer capable of performing steps and balletic moves so challenging and complicated that prima ballerinas struggle with. The expression (originally a reference to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire) that the female dancer does everything her male partner does only backward and in heels is flipped with The Trocks. It’s gender empowerment of another kind. They are also marvelous actors.

Each dancer plays multiple characters with hilarious pun names like Helen Highwaters, Varva Laptopova, Minnie van Driver, and Ludmila Beaulemova. Then they perform the role (Prince Siegfried or Odette of Swan Lake, for instance) in the character of a wayward Russian dancer. All of that while executing moves from intricate pas de deux partnering to notoriously difficult grand jeté leaps and fouettes that send them spinning like a dreidel.

The Joyce Theater three-week holiday engagement offers two programs: Program A (through December 19) and Program B (December 21-January 2). Program A features the beloved Swan Lake Act II, the bacchanalian Valpurgeyeva Noch (Walspurghisnacht), and the New York premiere of Nightcrawlers.

Nightcrawlers is a dark, moody piece showcasing three couples in a hot cat-and-mouse pursuit filled with passion, drama, and stunning choreography by founding artistic director Peter Anastos. The dance is a hysterical parody of Jerome Robbins’s In the Night set to nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin. It’s a sequel and companion piece that follows Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet, another Chopin/Robbins-inspired ballet Anastos choreographed in the 1970s.

The couples are Minnie van Driver with Boris Mudko (Ugo Cirri and Giovanni Ravelo), Elvira Khababgallina with Nicholas Khatchafallenjar (Kevin Garcia and Haojun Xie) and Maria Clubfoot with Dmitri Legupski (Alejandro Gonzalez and Giovanni Goffredo). The performance is as uproariously funny as it is dazzling to watch, they fling themselves at each other, swap partners, fly through the air, trot like a pony, and are swept across the floor, giving new meaning to the term “nightcrawler.”

Nightcrawlers still contains all of the goofy antics and madcap mishaps of any of The Trocks’ dances, but there is poetry within the parody, depth beneath the dalliances, and genuine romance and chemistry between the couples. The intensity in their eyes, the fury in which they cling to each other, is a shade deeper than the lighthearted humor of most Trocks pieces (even those portraying tragedies and deaths). It feels appropriate in this era where the desire to grasp onto loved ones is spurred by the fear of losing that privilege. Suddenly the stakes are increased exponentially through such a lens.

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Nocturnal Creatures +

Marina Harss, DanceTabs - Dec 15, 2021

This year, the Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo’s visit could not have been better timed. As a new Covid variant closes in, we all need a little cheering up.

But then, the Trocks’s antics are always welcome. Their specialty is knock-offs of classical ballets, performed by male dancers wearing copious stage makeup and pointe shoes. The presentation is Ballets-Russes-style retro: high drama, ballerina airs, piling on as many mannerisms as possible.

On the program was their classic staging of the lakeside scenes of Swan LakeLe Lac de Cygnes. The twist is that the dancer performing the role of Odette, Philip Martin-Nielson, alias Nadia Doumiafeyva, is really quite a good ballerina, a solid turner with great balance and crisp battus. There are moments in the pas de deux when you forget all about the excessive makeup and funny wigs and just lose yourself in the beauty of the movement, the way it soars on the notes of Tchaikovsky’s score. Then, just in time, something funny happens: a lift doesn’t work, or the swans beat up the prince’s poor, unsuspecting sidekick Benno.

The Trocks’ Swan Lake pas de deux places Benno in the action, a historically-accurate detail. More modern stagings leave him out of this scene. Why is he even there, getting in the way? Odette wonders, too, and keeps shooing him off.

The new work this season is Nightcrawlers, a spoof of Jerome Robbins’ In the Night by Peter Anastos, the troupe’s founding choreographer. Unfortunately, it lacks the attention to detail that makes Lac des Cygnes such a hoot. There’s plenty of material in In the Night to parody. In Robbins’ ballet, three couples offer different portraits of heterosexual love, accompanied by Chopin nocturnes. One is youthful, the other turbulent, the third sophisticated and exotic. I can imagine lots of ways to spin humor out of Robbins’ simplistic breakdown of romantic behavior. Instead, the choreography here goes for generic jokes about ballerinas lifting their male partners, dancers’ arms getting entangled, ladies being dragged unceremoniously across the stage on their back sides, or their male partners preferring each others’ company.

What works in the best Trockadero parodies, like Lac des Cygnes, is that they “get” what is inherently ridiculous about the source material. Ballet has so much that is over-the-top, ripe for parody. All the Trocks have to do is show it to us, with a wink. When that doesn’t happen, as with Nightcrawlers, the jokes go flat.

But the troupe more than redeemed itself with the final ballet on the program, Valpurgeyeva Noch (“Walpurgisnacht”). This is their send up of Leonid Lavrosky’s 1941 ballet set to the divertissement from Gounod’s opera Faust, staged by Elena Kunikova.

Kunikova, a former dancer with the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, understands the style of the ballet – pure, orgiastic, high-Soviet kitsch – so intimately, she barely has to change a thing. She simply presents it as it is, with its prancing fauns and nymphs running around with flowing chiffon scarves and wide eyes. A golden-haired Bacchus (Haojun Xie) poses heroically as his Bacchante (Ugo Cirri) exhibits her virtuosity with a gleaming, rapacious smile, exuding total, glam self-assurance. One big overhead lift follows upon the other, segueing into a series of virtuosic fouetté turns and turns à la seconde. Music, choreography, fauns, and flowing chiffons rise in an inexorable, frenzied crescendo. Perfect Trocks material, executed with panache.

And then, as an encore, the company came out onstage for a rousing, high-kicking rendition of New York, New York. Here’s looking at you, Trocks.

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