London Dance Review

Tanja Mangalanayagam, London Dance
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Programme 1, Peacock Theatre, 21 March

As the audience take their seats in the auditorium of the Peacock Theatre for the performance of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, there is an announcement.  A heavy Russian accented voice proclaims that, in the great tradition of all Russian Ballets, there are some changes in tonight’s performance. He regrettably announces a cast change; Natasha Notgudenov  has been injured and her role is instead danced by Svetlana Lofatkina. Half way through this announcement the majority of the audience are already convulsed with laughter.

As the announcement segues into the familiar musical intro to Swan Lake, the audience laughter gets even louder, there is even someone out there in the darkness laughing so hard that he is gasping for breath…. And this is even before the dramatic red velvet curtains have been drawn, revealing a corp de ballet consisting of 16 hairy chested male ballerinas, complete with arm pit hair, eye shadow and fluttering false eyelashes…. I am getting a sneaking suspicion that the majority of these viewers are already very familiar with the Trocks and their show.

The programme begins with one of the Trocks’ signature pieces; Swan Lake/ Act II. The swans that enter to the noisy sound of their clattering point shoes are not your usual bunch of demure cygnets.  Rather, they are raunchy can-can dancers, more eager to steal the show than to remain camouflaged within the neat symmetry of the corps.

Next up is Tarantella, with choreography after George Balanchine. In this act, gags are made by poking fun at the characteristics of the Balanchine style. In the Trock’s version there are no subtle hints of the piece’s sexual undertones, they are blatantly obvious as the ballerina dips down into a suggestive Balanchinesque second-position demi-plié on point with a facial expression resembling more that of a pole dancer than of a ballet dancer.

Les Grand Pas de Quatre satirises yet another particularity in the ballet world. This time the Trocks takes its topic from the bitter rivalry amongst the divas of ballerinas. The stage is simply too small to fit the humungous egos of these four prima ballerinas. They bicker and snigger at each other as they constantly tries to steal each others’ limelight.  This ballet was previously unknown to me, but from the programme notes, I find its history almost as hilarious as its execution by the Trocks. Choreographed in 1845, it was created for the four greatest ballerinas in the romantic age ( Lucille Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Marie Taglioni) in an attempt to exploit each one of their signature dancing qualities. The task was likened to ‘teaching lions and tigers to waltz in a cage’…

The diva theme continues as Ida Nevasayneva ( aka Paul Ghiselin) dances another of the Trocks’ signature pieces – The Dying Swan. After she has executed this dying solo, performed on trembling legs, frantically flapping her arms, while feathers continue to moult from her tutu, she plainly refuses to leave the spotlight. Inevitably the applause goes on far longer than her actual performance.

In Paquita, the company really gets a chance to show off their bravura and display some exceptional dancing. This Spanish themed ballet comes with colourful and kitsch costume and the dancing is wonderfully coquet. Towards the end of the act, ballerina Olga Supphozova (aka Robert Carter) performs a remarkable number of fouettés, while being cheered on by the audience. As it ends the roof of Peacock theatre is about to lift, the atmosphere is high, the audience’s roar deafening and as the curtain goes up for the cast to receive their applause, these burly ballerinas seize every opportunity bask in glory.