Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at Carpenter Performing Arts Center

Laura Bleiburg, Los Angeles Times
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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at Carpenter Performing Arts Center

The joking generally begins even before the ballerinas of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo make their startling first appearance, tutu-clad studs with ample chest hair.

So it was Saturday night, when the popular Trocks returned to Cal State Long Beach’s Carpenter Performing Arts Center. The announcer with the lilting Russian accent read so many cast changes, shorthand was necessary to keep up. And, he continued, the audience was in luck, because the ballerinas were in “very, very good moods this evening.”

Aren’t they always? The New York-based travesty ballet, begun on a lark 36 years ago, consistently works hard for our guffaws. Artistic director Tory Dobrin, veterans Paul Ghiselin and Robert Carter, and the 14 other “ladies” are ever refining signature pieces, such as “Swan Lake,” “Paquita” Act 3 and “Dying Swan,” so a repeat performance is not repetitious. The rock star ballerina temperament causes the chuckles, but the toe shoe mastery and female style deserve equal respect.

Saturday’s program included “Patterns in Space,” a just-satisfactory post-modern dance homage to the late Merce Cunningham and his avant-garde partner John Cage. Ilya Bobovniov (Christopher Montoya), Helen Highwaters (Calvin Gentry) and Maria Paranova (Or Sagi) – in red, white and blue — scooted about the stage in pitch-perfect Cunningham style while serious black-clad musicians Sveltlana Lofatkina (Fernando Medina Gallego) and Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Morra) rattled pill bottles, clacked castanets, mooed and bleated.

“La Vivandière pas de six” was a highlight, thanks to the pairing of the oversize yet frothy Katarina Bychkova (Joshua Grant) with the petit virtuoso Ketevan Iosifidi (Long Zou). Zou, with his neon-blue eye shadow and crisp beats, is a most welcome addition to the troupe. Willowy Vanya Verikosa (Brock Hayhoe) transported with her ample port de bras.

Too many ballerinas to praise and not enough space. Suffice to say, every ballet troupe aspires to the connection these gals have with their audience.