State Theatre, October 6 Until October 16
The pure skill of overkill … the men of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo turn inept dance into an art form. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Hairy chests peer over tutu bodices. Garish make-up gives comic expressions enough power to bounce off the back row. Dancers don’t just fall down, they push each other over. The competition is intense: upstaging is a way of life.
The Trocks are back. These are the men who take over the most feminine of balletic roles, dancing on point and fluffing up their tulle skirts, overdoing every aspect of their dancing until the audience can’t stop laughing.
Having seen and enjoyed them soon after they hit the mainstream stage in the 1970s, I found their last touring program too institutionalised. This one is more entertaining: an ideal mix of dance jokes, ha-ha humour and dancing that isn’t at all bad. In fact, apart from a few wacky elements – an outrageous kicking-the-tambourine routine and a male partner so “exhausted” he collapsed between his bravura sequences – the Tarantella based on Balanchine’s choreography had all the bounce, flair and speedy timing you could wish for in any context. And more.
Les Sylphides is more of a journey from the original, but it is still contained within the kind of jokes to which classical ballet easily succumbs – and which make hilarious entertainment at the most basic level. It doesn’t take much to exaggerate tilted heads, flapping hands, deep poses and toothpaste smiles.
Unkind viewers might draw some comparisons with the genuine Russian company that visited Sydney recently, in one male dancer’s lack of theatricality and ponderous walks, the milking of audience applause and the mindless formality behind the traditional groupings. You might sometimes have to stifle a giggle at a flagship ballet company; here you can have a belly laugh.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – the Trocks’ real name – is full of spoof ballerinas with names such as Sveltlana Lofatkina (heroine of the Tarantella), Olga Supphozova, Irina Bakpakova, Margeaux Mundeyn and Ludmila Beaulemova. Just say them aloud with a thick accent and you will know why the laughter took off at the opening announcement.
I admit I find it hard to look at those blokey feet. And most of the bodies are something to behold in dance terms – barrel chests and swimmers’ shoulders give only a hint of it. But the fun is worth an occasional visual wince.
Le Grand Pas de Quatre is drawn from a short ballet choreographed for four competing ballerinas, so there is not much this lot has to do to it – beyond overdoing it. The Dying Swan is a gift, with a trail of dropping feathers and seriously wobbly legs. Raymonda’s Wedding is another classic diversion that is easily sent up. But this should not take any credit away from these dancers who have made it their business to do so in style.