Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Judith Mackrell, The Guardian
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Peacock Theatre, London

Merce Cunningham’s death last year prompted a spate of tributes, but none as trenchant or funny as the Trocks’ revival of their “postmodern essay” Patterns in Space. Only the wickedest sliver of parody divides their version of Cunningham from the real thing, as three dancers, earnestly stripped down to leotards and tights, navigate an assault course of multi-directional steps and weirdly tilted balances.

It’s with the “musicians” who accompany them that the Trocks’ wilder talent for fantasy emerges. RM “Prince” Myshkin and Lariska Dumchenko appear to be a pair of Russian emigres who have somehow ended up as proteges of John Cage, haplessly blowing into paper bags and rustling sweet papers with the deadly seriousness of true avant-gardistes.

But fans of the Trocks aren’t denied the full tutu experience – in fact, this season sees the all-male ballet troupe excel in the range of their repertory and the quality of their dancing. ChopEniana (sic) is typical of the company’s genius for finding comedy in the style of the ballet they are spoofing – here it’s Fokine’s Les Sylphides. The Poet (Andrei Verikose aka Brock Heyhoe) turns dreamy romanticism into lobotomised trance, constantly losing his ballerina as he drifts through his steps. The corps de ballet tie themselves in knots as they track the flowery patterns of the choreography, and in the long interludes of stillness, drift happily off to sleep.

Yet even with the jokes, we still see Fokine’s ballet, in all its moonlit sweetness, and the other repertory boasts an equal authenticity. Raymonda’s Wedding evokes all the exotic Hungarian hauteur of Petipa’s vision, even while vamping it up with a rock’n’roll burlesque. La Vivandiere is full of period-perfect dancing – even with a ballerina who’s a good 18in taller than her partner, and therefore threatens to concuss him with every sweeping arc of her leg.