The Trocks bring mix of fun, footwork to Peace Center

Paul Hyde, Greenville News
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The Trocks are the Harlem Globetrotters of ballet.

Just when you decide they’re only a comic troupe, the Trocks dash off a feat of pyrotechnical skill that leaves you amazed and cheering.

That was the reaction of the exuberant audience welcoming the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Trocks, for short) to the Peace Center Saturday night. The 14-member dance company, an international presence since 1974, embraces a tried-and-true formula: The group starts silly and gets increasingly serious to show that, hey, these guys really can dance.

No surprise, the troupe concluded its performance with a largely straight version of Massenet’s Spanish-flavored “Majisimas,” which provided plenty of opportunity for the dancers to dazzle with effortless leaps, double air turns and other impressive moves. The funny stuff came early, particularly in the Trocks’ classic Act II of “Swan Lake,” featuring the brawny, hairy chested men in tutus. The group’s schtick-in-trade is to closely follow the original choreography (in this case by Lev Ivanov), then unexpectedly toss in a pratfall and some slapstick. A ballerina falls flat on her (his) face. Another hollers out “ugh!” while leaping. A maverick corps member suddenly begins sashaying Broadway-style while others vainly try to keep the ensemble together. Another ballerina gets kicked in the head. Still another mugs flamboyantly at the audience, as if to say: “Hey, look at me!”

The Trocks might be considered a sort of Three Stooges on Pointe if not for the serious bits and the genuine expertise. Charleston native Robert Carter, the star of the show in this reviewer’s estimation, executed a series of speedy fouettes that any professional female dancer would envy.  The dancers in tutus certainly looked funny, but the ensemble exhibited a marvelous sense of unity, control and precision — all the traditional balletic virtues.

Among the other pieces, “Patterns in Space” was a hilarious parody of modern dance innovator Merce Cunningham and experimental composer John Cage. Three dancers moved about solemnly but aimlessly while two onstage “musicians” made “music” by rustling paper bags and gargling, among other oddities.  “The Dying Swan,” meanwhile, was danced in a flurry of molting feathers to the music of Saint-Saens.  The group’s you-gotta-be-kidding-me encore — an Irish stepdance — inspired the audience literally to scream with jubilation.