Mastering the Formality Along With the Farce

by Gia Kourlas, New York Times
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Raffaele Morra of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)

Men can be bunheads, too. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the all-male company formed in 1974 by ballet fans with a flair for comedy, continues its reign at the Joyce Theater through Jan. 4 ( with two programs that prove how parody and virtuosic technique work in glittering tandem. In other words, the Trocks, as they’re called, know what they’re making fun of. Comedic takes on classics like “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote” and “The Dying Swan” are born not of contempt, but of a love of dance.

The Trockadero sensibility comes down to its witty individual dancers, who know that a ballet joke can be delivered only with actual dancing chops. Exaggeration, in the sly manner of Soviet-era ballet, is part of the trimming, but humor is added only after a Trockadero member can perform a variation straight. That you will laugh out loud at a Trockadero performance is to be expected; still, you may feel awe. A male dancer on point is an extraordinary sight; how better to grasp the otherworldly delicacy of balance?

But there’s also the way the prowess and sinew of these extraordinary dancers convey abandon. Apart from Ashley Bouder, at New York City Ballet, such daring is rare; these dancers know how to eat up space. A grand jeté shoots across the stage like a meteor. The force behind a pirouette is audacious. As much as a Trockadero performance is about lashes batting against azure eye shadow, it’s more about fortitude — stretching beyond what is accepted, in the body and in the mind. Isn’t that part of what the art of ballet is all about? Imagining the unimaginable?

All the while, the wigs, the tutus, the sheer splendor of the Trockaderos bring some needed sparkle to the holidays. Dress up. With Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, led by its artistic director, Tory Dobrin, every night is New Year’s Eve. Their stylistic guru, as cited on the troupe’s website, is Marius Petipa. He must be smiling somewhere.

New York Times