Les Ballets Trockadero at the Peacock Theatre ★★★★★

Debra Craine, The Times, London
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photo credit: Marilyn Kingwill

Why should girls have all the fun? That could be the mantra of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the spoof troupe of male dancers who don tutus and tiaras to show that boys can be ballerinas too. With their affectionate cross-dressing tributes to the heyday of the Russian ballet, they have been making audiences laugh for 40 years. Now the New York-based company is back in London (with two programmes of short ballets) to make us laugh again.

Sure, the fright wigs, pratfalls, sight gags, silly stage names and oversized pointe shoes set the scene for comedy, but what I always love about the Trocks is their devotion to the 19th-century classical repertoire. When they aren’t busy making merry with parody and slapstick, they are dancing their hearts out in some of the most difficult choreography in the canon. Not for them the easy way out.

In the iconic Act II lakeside scene of Swan Lake I don’t know which made me laugh more — Paolo Cervellera’s girlie Prince Siegfried, the coquettish swans or the ridiculous chorus of duck quacks. Our Odette, Philip Martin-Nielson, wiggled his man boobs and flirted shamelessly on opening night while still making a truly impressive job of Ivanov’s poetic choreography.

I was bowled over by Carlos Hopuy (as the ballerina) and Laszlo Major (as her male partner) who delivered Le Corsaire pas de deux with enormous flair — forget the jokes, the dancing from both of them was filled with the wow factor (Hopuy’s fouette turns; Major’s backflips!). The Esmeralda pas de six was more subtle but still winning, while The Dying Swan solo got the requisite big laugh when Joshua Thake shed his feathers like a gloriously deluded diva.

Programme one ended with my personal favourite, the variations from Paquita. Set to Minkus’s infectiously buoyant music, here are allegro dances to gladden the heart. The Trocks performed the whole thing with gusto and aplomb without overplaying the humour. And how extraordinary is Chase Johnsey: as Paquita’s central ballerina his moves were not only beautiful but imbued with the utmost in feminine virtue.

Yes, the music is recorded, some of the jokes are getting stale and the Peacock is an unprepossessing venue for dance — but if you’re looking for a happy night out, it’s hard to beat the Trocks.

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