A big leap for comedy

Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post
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“Ballet” troupe had to be really good to purposely be this bad

Call ’em the divas of dysfunctionality. The goddesses of gaffes. The starlets of slip-ups.

Whatever the sobriquet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo knows how to entertain an audience, as it demonstrated convincingly Saturday evening in a knockout performance at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

With the kind of timing and precision of which every comedian dreams, it drew wave after wave of laughter and cheers — the gags scoring with astonishing consistency.

The New York company’s shtick has remained virtually unchanged since it was established in 1974. It spoofs the venerable formality, pedantry and eccentricity of classical ballet, using its 17 male dancers to perform all the roles from classic works.

Since most of the parts were originally intended for women, that means most of the company members perform en travesti, their bodies wedged into frilly tutus and oversized point shoes — an inherently funny sight.

As actors and comics from Milton Berle to Robin Williams have repeatedly shown, performing in drag offers endless comic potential, in part because it upends conventional gender identity, drawing laughs from the role reversals and other inevitable incongruities that result.

The evening’s comedic tone was set right at the beginning, when a speaker with a fake Russian accent announced that in keeping with Russian ballet tradition, there would be substitutions, and he launched into the dancers’ names, including Yakaterina Verbosovich, Minnie van Driver and Svetlana Lofatkina.

Setting the tone for the evening was a hilarious, abridged version of Act 2 from “Swan Lake,” with all matter of pratfalls, missteps and awkwardness.
Everything that could go wrong does. The Prince drops Odette during their duet, and she lets out a yelp. A dancer in the ensemble section finds herself in the wrong line and has to dash back into place. Von Rothbart grows tired and has to stop and catch his breath.

Much the same took place in the second section, which included the famed Pas De Deux from “Le Corsaire” and “The Dying Swan,” a solo originally danced by Anna Pavlova, with Gerd Tord (Bernd Burgmaier) as the pathetic creature, its feathers slowly falling off.

The rich irony is it takes incredibly good dancers to pull off “bad” dancing, especially considering that choreography for women was created for their specific physiology and is doubly or triply hard for men.

Dancing on point and displaying extraordinary dexterity and athleticism again and again, the Trocks made it all look deceptively easy, especially the foursome in Jules Perrot’s Le Grand Pas de Quatre, with their gasp-inducing flips and other theatrics.


Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Dance Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek. A 17-member comedic ballet troupe. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $45. 888-920-2787 or