Bravos for the boys brigade

Deborah Jones, The Australian
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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. State Theatre, Sydney, October 6. Tickets: $64.50-$87.50. Bookings: 132 849. Ends October 16. Perth, October 19-23; Melbourne, October 27-November 6; Brisbane, November 9-13.

WHAT do you get when the four greatest ballerinas of the day are persuaded to share a stage? We’ll never know exactly what Jules Perrot’s 1845 divertissement for Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Lucille Grahn looked like because Perrot didn’t notate it, but you can be sure the air was electric with the spirit of competition.

This is exactly the kind of thing the Trocks, the classical ballet company of men who dance as women, pounce on with glee. Their reconstruction of Pas de Quatre, like all the Trocks’s work, combines homage and send-up in equal parts. They’re like a tribute band — the Bjorn Again of dance.

Like all successful satirists, they understand their target intimately and choose to shine a light on aspects of dance that other companies tactfully draw a veil over. Mutterings among the corps de ballet, performance glitches, limelight hogging and displays of temperament are ruthlessly brought out. The level of perception is acute and the quality of dance extremely high.

The Trocks apply a magnifying glass to classical dance. They are so much bigger and stronger than the women they impersonate that familiar steps are seen anew. Olga Supphozova’s back bends are astonishing and her double pirouettes ending in attitude are sheer delight.

The Trocks also understand the power of personality and again Supphozova (the manically vivacious Robert Carter) is a standout. They exaggerate wildly, but make one nostalgic for the strong, individual characters we get a glimpse of in documentary footage of early 20th century dancers (a documentary on the Ballets Russes I saw recently was a revelation in that respect).

All cities on the Trocks’s touring program will see the pas de quatre — wait for the out-of-the-blue aerial cartwheel — and an old favourite, The Dying Swan, in which the first joke is the moulting costume and the second the fact that the curtain call lasts longer than the dance. At the performance I saw, Gerd Tord (the alter ego of Bernd Burgmaier) showed fluid, undulating arms any ballerina would covet.

A delicious Les Sylphides and the bouncy Raymonda’s Wedding were extended pleasures and the stylish, bravura dancing of Svetlana Lofatkina (Fernando Medina Gallego) and William Vanilla (Grant Spencer) in Tarantella brought a volley of bravos from a very happy audience.