Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Trocks) – Programme A, Swan Lake bill – London ★★★★★

Jann Parry, DanceTabs
Posted on

The all-male Trocks are divinely absurd, as are the 19th century ballets they revere and ridicule. Though they take on female roles, they aren’t trying to emulate women on pointe: they are embodying old-school prima ballerinas who graced ornate ballets with preposterous plots.

As the years (and wars and revolutions) went by, those plots were simplified and the original choreography was altered or lost. But relics lingered in performers’ memories, photographs and films. Excerpts surfaced for ballet students’ graduation shows or competitions – regarded as too quaint, perhaps, for adult professionals. The Trocks have seized upon these antique gems with glee, adding them to a bejewelled collection of familiar classics.

Back on tour in Britain, their opening programme includes an abbreviated Act II of Swan Lake (1895), an underwater scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse (1864), a pas de deux from Les Millions d’Harlequin (1901) and a tribute to 19th century opera ballets, Trovatiara pas de cinq (2002). And, of course, an immortal Dying Swan. The moulting bird’s teetering bourrées excepted, the choreography is a joy, danced in the appropriate grand manner with added pratfalls.

The Trocks’ version of Swan Lake (or Lac, as it used to be known) restores some Soviet era removals. Benno, the hero’s best friend and supporter, is back, as are mime sequences, mostly mystifying the participants: Siegfried doesn’t speak swan. The corps of eight swan-maidens, elbow-length gloves covering hairy forearms, pretend to cower as victims of fiendish Von Rothbart (Joshua Thake, as Jacque d’Aniels). They are more like vengeful Wilis, intimidating bewildered Benno (Roberto Vega as Mikhail Mypansarov).

Their Queen (Carlos Hopuy, as Alla Snizova) is a dignified figure, investing her trust in Siegfried (Duane Gosa, as Vladimir Legupski). He is a reliable partner, though he hands over catching duties to Benno, as did ageing Pavel Gerdt in the original Lac des Cygnes. Siegfried is a poseur, while Odette is completely committed to her tragic role. Hopuy dances her solo variations impeccably, his ballerina line fine apart from his masculine shoulders.

Now that the Trocks’ technique is so strong in choreography created for light-weight women, they need to demonstrate that they are pretty beefy men, not trans-gender dancers, or the essence of their loving parody of ballet loses its point. They are witty comedians, bringing out the craziness of classical ballet so that we laugh with them, while admiring their muscular skill on pointe.

Read more