The Trocks Rock Bangkok

Vidura Amranand, The Bangkok Post
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Ballet was alive again when Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (known affectionately by their worldwide fanbase as the Trocks) paid another visit to Bangkok last week at the Royal Paragon Hall. Dance-goers in Thailand who spend more that 600 baht per ticket to see a performance are rarely challenged with the kind of wit and intelligence this all-male and en-drag ballet troupe possesses. Big-budget musicals and many works billed in the annual Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music are so redundant that they narrow audiences’ views of what is considered “beautiful dancing”, and even more troubling, what is considered dance at all. Although the Trocks are no longer provocative or groundbreaking, even in the Thai dance scene, the company still holds its own special place in the international ballet world.

They are an entertaining and sassy bunch. They fill the stage with their voluminous movement while sporting thick lashes, tutus, and god-given bushels of manly armpit hair. But what makes the Trocks stand out from other ballet and contemporary ballet companies we’ve seen in Thailand is that they don’t strive for the celestial kind of beauty, instead, they bring humanness to ballet.

The dancers range in body type, from thin and short to bulky and tall, and they radiate from the top and centre of their skulls to the very ends of their fingers and toes, making their dancing rich and yummy. All the while, they have a sense of humour and communicate with the audience as they flicker a knowing smile at us or summon for more applause with a quick wave. They mock courtly ballet manners, present an exaggerated version of jealous scene-stealing ballerinas, and when characters die or falter their falls are intentionally flat and hard, devoid of any transcendent grace.

To watch the Trocks perform is not to see dancers dance, but even more powerful, it is to see humans dance.

How tickling and refreshing it was to see the herd of swans in Swan Lake Act II peck at their feathers (as real swans do) and stand up for themselves against the hunter instead of flitting silently to the sides with heads down and wrists crossed. To bring the sexy back into ballet, Odette placed Prince Siegfried’s hand onto her own bum with a naughty smile as he escorted her off the stage. And finally, people had a good laugh when the evil sorcerer stripped away his upright ballet comportment and swaggered like an archetypal gangster ready to stir up trouble.

In The Dying Swan, another classic favourite, feathers fell away from the haggard yet loveable bird as it flapped and quivered to its amusingly miserable death.

Pas de Deux, Grand Pas de Quatre and Raymonda’s wedding are a show of technical feats that prove that the Trocks are not only proficient in theatrics and parodies, but they are also serious ballet dancers with an impressive range of performance styles.

I hope the Trocks come back to Thailand again, hopefully not with Swan Lake or The Dying Swan, because we’ve had enough of that. The company has a diverse repertoire that would well stimulate Thai audiences as we are always in need of a good challenge.

The Bangkok Post