Trockadero puts its loving twist on “Swan Lake”

Janice Berman, San Francisco Chronicle
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Halfway through the magisterial idiocy that is Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo’s “Swan Lake,” one may pause briefly to rest one’s splitting sides and turn to the big question. No, it has nothing to do with men’s tutus and their underpinnings, or how the dancers in this all-male ballet company learn to maneuver their outsize toe shoes in a mere two weeks. The question is why it’s so fabulous to watch.

Probably because this company, presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, nails all the verities of classical ballet while simultaneously ripping them apart. It’s all here, beautifully observed and lovingly satirized: the delicate tilt of Odette’s head, undercut by the piano-key toothiness of a Martha Raye grin, direct to the audience; the bemused gallantry of the Prince, (Odette is Olga Supphozova, a.k.a Robert Carter; Prince Siegfried is Pavel Tord, in real life or what passes for it, Bernd Burgmaier).

The more established our memory of the original, the funnier the Trocks. That seems to be a useful rule. “The Dying Swan,” for instance stars a molting Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), who has a gift for milking applause. The ballet and the behavior are laughably familiar.

And, then there’s technique. The Trocks can really dance. They can fouettes, even triples (Fifi Barkova, or Manolo Molina, in the Don Quixote pas de deux). They can do beating jumps (Nikolai Legupski, or Carlos Garcia, in “La Vivandiere”). To a man, uh, woman, they have gorgeous epaulement, warping to fit any occasion, as in “Raymonda,” with the ample and stellar Lariska Dumchenko (Raffaele Morra) in the title role and an impeccably ridiculous corps de ballet. As ballerina, the Trocks are not perfection, but they aspire to it. Maybe that’s the most hilarious, most heartwarming touch of all.