Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Trocks) – Les Sylphides bill – London ★★★★

Lynette Halewood, DanceTabs
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The Trocks continue into a second week at the Peacock with a new programme, and both they and the audience are having huge fun. There isn’t enough genuinely funny ballet. In times when most of the news seems to be depressing, the all-male troupe bring welcome cheer and gleeful jauntiness to their wicked send-ups of ballet classics, which are still clearly beloved even as they are made fun of. They appeal to the hardened balletomane and casual theatregoer alike: everyone it seems adores a bunch of guys with hairy chests, big pointe shoes and a determination to have a good time on stage.

The voiceover introduction to the performance in a cod-Russian accent softens up the audience nicely and sets the tone for what follows. The Trocks have honed their approach over the years and they clearly know what works. They begin with the best-known classic which gets stuffed full of pratfalls and sight gags before moving on to pieces which are done almost (but never entirely) straight to remind you that they really can deliver the goods when they want to, and that their pirouettes are impeccable.

The opening piece here is Les Sylphides, where a musing poet floats through a bevy of ballerinas in long white tutus. Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo) as the hero is quite magnificently dim, with an expression of sublime befuddlement, never being entirely sure towards which part of the stage he should be heading. His ludicrous white wig almost deserves a credit of its own, at one point growing to something the size of a small sheep. The ballerinas make it clear that they know just how to deliver the steps when they aren’t knocking each other over, bickering or sleepwalking over the edge of the stage into the audience. Yet it still manages to be Les Sylphides with some very pretty patterns in the corps of eight.

The middle part of the programme starts with Tchaikovsky pas de deux. It’s relatively unusual for the Trocks to choose a virtuoso piece currently performed by many companies, rather than an old or neglected classic. It’s described in the programme as “after” Balanchine. Well, quite some distance after. You can certainly understand the high fives for the performers after some tricky manoeuvres. It was done with terrific verve and panache by Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) and Mikhail Mypantsarov (Roberto Vega).

There are a number of dancers new to the Trocks since their last visit here three years ago. What is striking about the company is how eclectic it is: there are dancers from China, Japan, South Africa, Spain and Italy as well as the US where the company originates. They come in a fabulous array of skin tones and body types. And a range of heights too, which enables plenty more jokes. Napoli is cast with two shorter dancers in the male roles but with some more towering figures in the four female parts. When it comes to lifts, it’s the little guy that gets picked up and tossed in the air.

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