The Trocks Go To Sea

Robert Johnson, Point Magazine
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Little girls aren’t the only ones who dream of being ballerinas. Some little boys do, too. And a few of them actually grow up to be Swan Queens.

Society has a special name for these men. They’re called “The Trocks,” and they wear full makeup and glittering tiaras as they bourrée sur les pointes across the stage. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, as the comedy troupe is formally known, was up to its old tricks, returning to the Joyce Theater in New York, in December 2004, with a repertoire of classic spoofs and an old-is-new revival of the undersea ballet from The Little Hump-Backed Horse.

While the men indulge their cherished fantasies in ballets like Le Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II), they offer some genuine insights. Squeezing their hairy chests into silken bodices and muscling their way through the most demanding roles, the Trocks underscore how difficult it is to be a ballerina, even on a good day. By sweaty contrast, they pay tribute to the supreme grace of their female models.

The ballet aspires to polished perfection, but its practitioners may have human failings like vanity, professional jealousy or a fondness for drink. With one plucked eyebrow lifted in alarm, the Trocks expose these lapses. Yet they do so out of affection, not malice. The ballet employs outsized personalities with strange, foreign names-though nothing as exotic as the Trocks’ merry monikers, which include Fifi Barkova, Igor Slowpokin and Sveltlana Lofatkina. Like a fun-house mirror, they delight viewers by exaggerating and distorting what is most familiar.

To their credit, the Trocks understand the dazzling power of theatrical artifice and the appeal of connoisseurship. So while many ballet companies today seem bent on modernizing, relaxing the rules to embrace pop culture, the Trocks continue to revive the 19th-century classics-the more fanciful and exacting, the better.

Mainstream ballet companies are trying to attract new audiences, but the Trocks give ballet fans what they want-the virtuosity, elegance and storybook adventure-with a cruel twist.

This season, in addition to the usual fare-Ida Nevasayneva shedding pounds of feathers and milking the audience’s sympathies in The Dying Swan; Margeaux Mundeyn’s stoic forbearance, as her partner unpacked from a lengthy drug trip in Les Sylphides; and the frenzied spinning of Olga Supphozova-the Trocks dredged up the undersea divertissement from the The Little Humpbacked Horse (revised, 1895).

Dressed by Kenneth Busbin, the Trocks appeared hilariously costumed as jellyfish, coral and some sea creatures so weird that the Discovery channel would cover them right back up, all dancing to a tuneful score by Cesare Pugni. The choreography, however, was genuine Petipa, staged by Russian ballet mistress Elena Kunikova.

Robert Johnson is reviews editor for Pointe and dance critic for The Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ