Trocks act isn’t completely for laughs

Linda Shapiro, St. Paul Pioneer Press
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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, affectionately known as the Trocks, trod the boards of the Pantages Theatre on Wednesday night with characteristic gusto.

Since the mid-1970s, these guys in tutus have wormed their way into the hearts of balletomanes and the lumpen proletariat alike by taking careful and loving aim at revered ballet traditions.

First of all, they are very good dancers who can toss off multiple turns and dazzling balances on pointe with the best of their terpsichorean sisters. Second, they have a rich insight into the history and aesthetic development of ballet.

Done up in ballerina chic from the tops of their tieraed heads to the tips of their satin-shod toes, these fellows are not drag queens channeling Judy Garland. There are no falsies, and body hair is clearly in evidence. For the Trocks, ballet conventions become a no-holds-barred playground where a bunch of very savvy kids disport themselves with glee.

In “Swan Lake”, for instance, the estimable swan queen Nadia Rombova (Jai Williams) and her prince Pavel Tord (Bernd Burgmaier) (all the dancers sport outrageous stage names), rip through convoluted mime sequences with wicked aplomb.

In this topsy-turvy world, “I love you, you love me, let’s get betrothed” translates into a lengthy and redundant mimetic rap – with all the right 19th century moves. In the famous dance of the four cygnets (four swans), the ladies in question, linked together by crossed arms and devilishly complex co ordinations of leg and head movements, show a rebellious spirit. One dancer is always temperamentally and physically out of synch.

It’s funny because while the performers are technically capable of pulling this variation off without a glitch, they subvert the corps etiquette of robotic sameness by choosing not to.

Pratfalls and broad humor are on display throughout the evening, but the Trocks are best when they play it straight with a few robust twists.