Friday night was balmy and booked with events to please tourists and locals hoping to enjoy the best of what this River City has to offer. On the docket of possible to-dos during this maniacal Spring Break season was a little advertised performance of Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo. Held in the city’s expansive Straz Center’s smaller venue, Ferguson Hall, the performance was a hyperbolic cacophony of tradition, individual talent, and the tour de force of masculine prowess that draws near sell-out crowds consistently.
As with every performance, diversity is the key theme for both the dancers and the demographics who come to witness this show that I could not have anticipated and that I shall never, ever forget. In a world where it is often so scary to be different, the ‘Differents’ gathered on this night in Tampa—on stage and in seats. Together, we enjoyed the revelry that concurrently pays homage to the tradition of Ballets Russes and mocks the limiting norms and expectations that have evolved alongside classical ballet. Funny and full of folly, the program was also challenging, including Swan Lake, Act II, Nightcrawlers, a piece with its roots in an earlier parody of Jerome Robbins’ work, and concluding with Raymonda’s Wedding, a piece that first debuted in 1898 and that has now been twisted and morphed into a delightful finale complete with a happy ending! Let me be clear—these guys are funny—really funny. But never at any moment does that humor obfuscate the talent that keeps the troupe on the road about 200 nights a year.
And while talent underpins the show, comedy is his/her/their/your/our muse for the performance. The audience is indoctrinated into comedic expectation before the curtain opens. A disembodied voice, speaking formally in broken English replete with a Soviet-Block accent, sets the tone, announcing the spoof-centric names of the dancers and informing us of farcical changes made to tonight’s program.
The show begins with Swan Lake, Act II. The curtain rises to dancers in perfect costume, perfect posture, and, immediately, those who know Swan Lake on any level start sorting through expectations, just as with any regular, classical ballet. And that’s where they get you. The minute you think you know something, they break the barrier. What graceful arms, you say in your mind, only to note that the facial expressions of this little feathered angel are not wistful. She is not waiting for a male figure to make her matter. Oh, no. These swans are self-possessed and aggressive and, well, funny.Read more