Strong Dance “Hysterically Funny” and Very Strong Dance

Donald K. Atwood, World of Dance Online
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Many see ”Les Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo” (The Trocks) as a group of male dancers, many in “drag” as “faux ballerinas,” hysterically spoofing Romantic and Classical ballet – or any other dance genre they decide to take on. If one looks at them through that lens it is way too easy to miss that all of those men are very accomplished dancers, and that for the most part those ballerinas are not “faux” at all, but rather ballerinas that are quite real and very much virtuosos. In fact, it is that virtuosity and the company’s intense knowledge and understanding of both the ballet form and the “traditional” choreography of the dances they present that makes comedy they engender work when they so choose. That comedy resides in very few pratfalls and/or scenes of simulated clumsiness. It more often comes from slight, but oh so visible, departures from traditional choreography, or slight shifts in relationships and hierarchies in ballet. Many of the funniest moments result from perfectly timed and unexpected, body language, and or gestures, in head, arm, hand, or leg movements. Audience members who enjoy “The Trocks” concerts most are those who know ballet, and the dances presented intimately, and catch the nuances – like the warping of a promenade, or a signature gesture from one oft performed ballet transposed into another.

“The Trocks” early 2008 tour has them in Colorado, with concerts in CU/Boulder’s Macky Auditorium on January 25th, and the DU Newman Center 0n January 26th. The Friday, January 25th Macky concert went up to a sell out audience (noteworthy in the huge Macky) and included some five works that varied from comedic to delightful presentations of more serious choreography. The evening opened with the second act of “Swan Lake” (or as The Trocks prefer “Le Lac Des Cygnes”), with the perfect persona of Prince Siegfried danced by Joshua Grant (aka Ashley Romanoff- Titwillow), his friend Bonno danced by Christopher Lam (aka Boris Nowitsky), a tireless (most of the time) Rothbart by Robert Carter (aka Yuri Smirnov), a sweet but “knows what she wants” Odette by Raffaele Morra (aka Lariska Dumbchenko), and eight loveable swans danced by Dustin Johnsey, Nolan Kubota, Carlos Miller, Calvin Gentry, Or Sagi, Camilo Rodriguez, Roberto Lara, and Tibor Horvath. Rothbart appeared early in an over-the-top hair-do and was totally evil in attempts to cast spells on both Odette and Siegfried, and when those failed in manhandling Odette in a tug-of-war with the prince. Siegfried was tall, blonde, and oh-so-royal as he partnered a demanding Odette who was far from the shy swan Petipa’s choreography presents. The swans moved in striking virtuosity, which at any momen could become klutzy, out of character, and out of place – literally. And suddenly, out of nowhere, Siegfried spoke to Odette in an “I promise to love and marry you” gesture lifted right out of Act I of Giselle. All ends with Siegfried prone on the floor, totally defeated (at least for now) by Rothbart, only to be photographed by the irreverent Bonno. Of particular note were the variations in Odette and Siegfried’s pas de deux, during which Grant and Morra’s dance abilities shined.

“Le Grande Pas De Quatre,” with music by Cesare Pugni, was a hilarious take off on Benjamin Lumley’s first staging of that work, when he wrestled with the hierarchy in the “primas” he had chosen, and the unwritten rule that the best of them got the last variation. Lumley coped by deciding Maria Taglioni got that variation, as she was the eldest of the four. The Trocks Fernando Medina Gallego (aka Sveltlana Lofatkina) was a magnificently dominating Taglioni, albeit not always together, always demanding deference and properly deep bows from the other three “primas” as danced by Nolan Kubota, Scott Austin, Joseph Jefferies, who all shamelessly milked the bows after their variations.  Bernd Burgmaier (aka Gerd Tord)  danced the “Dying Swan” (once the errant follow-spot found him) as feathers fell from his apparently decaying costume. Post “dying” Burgmaier set a new standard for milking a bow.

A much more serious dance, “Majismas,” set to music by Jules Massenet, was danced by a corps of six ballerinas and three couples in female and male personas. Well choreographed and well danced it was enthusiastically received by an audience that seemed to love seeing the Trocks get very serious. Of special note were variations and a quartet performed by the male personas. Another long duet was equally well executed (including 22 plus fouettes – one wondered if she would go for 32 – and rapid turns a la seconde). Alas the piece was not listed in the program and the title and names of the dancers were lost in the faux Russian accent announcement about the work.

The Trocks closed the concert with a boisterous “Mexican Hat Dance” complete with sombreros and serapes.

Costumes designed by Mike Gonzales and Christopher Anthony Vargas were stunning and captured nuances of the Romantic and Classical ballet eras. Lighting designs by Kip Marsh and Jax Messenger artfully revealed the dances and the comedic nuances therein. The Trocks will perform at the DU Newman Center in Denver on Saturday January 26th, at Ft. Collins Lincoln Center on January 27th, and in Beaver Creek on January 29th. If you can secure a ticket to any of those performances you will not be disappointed.