The Daily Yomiuri Review

Lauren Gard, The Daily Yomiuri
Posted on

When LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO come to town, woman go ga-ga. They cannot get enough of the Trocks, as the flowery flock of dancers are known. It is a phenomenon that has generated a cult following in Japan and a fan club boasting more than 1,000 members. When the performers took their final, final, final bow (I stopped counting at four) last week, female fans flooded the stagefront with flowers, ritzy department store bags and invitations to the post-show festivities.

No wonder the Trocks keep coming back. This year marks the non profit group’s 19th season in Japan, which is undoubtedly one of their most important markets.

The New York-based Trocks performed a repertoire drawn from such classics as Swan lake and La Vivandiere at Tokyo International Forum ­ though they were, of course, classics with not only a drag, but a twist. They took the clichéd themes familiar to ballet aficionados one step further, crowing not only gender lines but also the line between serious and seriously silly dance.

The thick, color programs, for instance, included the dancers’ bios ­ but these aren’t your run of the mill write ups. In addition to listing the dancers’ real names and basic data (all have performed with well-known “ordinary” companies), each dancer also goes by a made-up, on-stage male and female persona complete with in-character photos, tongue-twisting Russiansque names and ludicrous personal histories.

One of the evening’s brightest stars was nine-year veteran Jai Williams (also known as “Nadja Rombova” or “Nicholas Khachafallenjar”). Williams opened the show as Odette in a scene from Act 2 of Swan Lake. Looking as though he’d just stepped off the beach in Miami ­ though admittedly, a frilly white tutu, long white gloves and gigantic satin pointe shoes are a bit much for even that town ­ Williams entranced the audience with his endless arms, sculpted legs, spider-like eyelashes and wide, porcelain smile. And, oh, those moves!

When half a dozen other ballerinas sailed onto the stage en pointe to join the elegant Odette, audible gasps emerged from the audience. Soon, laughter followed as the swans’ unique style of dance evolved to include one swan crashing to the floor in a very unladylike fashion and a few others taking turns attacking a hunter (all meticulously in time to the familiar Tchaikovsky score, of course).

The Dying Swan literally steps away from her deathbed, a steady flow of feathers falling from her poofy skirt as she tragically dances out her last moments on stage. Yet the vain swan is loath to actually get off stage. Only after repeated cheers and the presentation of several bouquets of flowers does she finally slip through the curtain, unable to resist popping back one last time to give a coy little wave adieu. It is one of the most beautiful, creative ­ and humorously over the top ­ moments of the show.

In a stunning rendition of Paquita, a number of the ballerinas in gorgeous jewel-toned tutus had a chance to shine in short solos, free of any exaggerated mishaps. And witnessing the show’s unique dynamic finale is like opening a treasure chest: I daresay it’s worth the ticket price alone.

It is this sort of quasi-slapstick comedy, along with their caked-on drag-queen make up, wide range of body types rarely seen on stage and beautiful costumes that make the Trocks such a delight to watch. Add to that the dancers’ first-rate skills as ballerinas and dazzling choreography replete with enough grande jetes and pirouettes (and the occasional handspring) to make viewers dizzy (and any females prima donna envious) and you’ve got a fantastic show.