Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo review – a wacky, wicked Don Quixote ★★★★

Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, London
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Photograph: Bettina Strenske/LNP/Bettina Strenske/LNP

As ballet companies go, the all-male Trocks have one of the smallest of niche repertoires. For audiences this is rarely an issue – the company’s sublime dance parodies mostly get funnier and richer with repeated viewings. But it’s good to see them in new material, especially when it’s as wacky and wickedly observed as their take on Don Quixote.

It’s a tough call, reducing the sprawling Petipa original down to a single act. Yet with scholarly judgment and some outrageous taking of liberties, the Trocks have made it work. There’s no titular Don on stage, only a “Mystery Lady” who gets quietly tipsy in a corner. Kitri’s father becomes a socially ambitious mother, with a distinct resemblance to Widow Simone, and Amour first appears as a ragged crone, hopping along to the dancing with a game, if creaky, sense of rhythm.

Despite these changes, all of the ballet’s familiar tropes are stated, and then riotously exploded, as background village bustle escalates into an elaborate spring cleaning routine of dustpans, brushes and window cleaner. Extravagantly bespangled gypsies run amok, and Kitri and Basil – expertly danced – have some ridiculous fun with fans.

The joy of this company is that the jokes are radiantly legible even if you’ve never seen the original. The same is true of their delicious Les Sylphides, in which the sylphs’ gracious good manners disintegrate into whispered bitchery, and their moonlit reveries become so somnolent the dancers fall asleep, and an exquisitely vapid prince has to be steered around the floor by his ballerinas.

Nor do the company just do ballet. In Patterns in Space, the Trocks nail Merce Cunningham with a lovingly brutal accuracy: Cunningham’s style is flawlessly parodied and the two accompanying musicians – loopily avant garde followers of the John Cage school – are worth the price of a ticket alone.

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