Trocks’ parody plus expertise equals delight

Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune
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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs at the Harris Theater.

The folks who run Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are cagey when it comes to programming, typically bringing works we haven’t seen in a while, even if they’re long-standing components of their satirical repertory.

en travesti or, more familiarly, in drag — showed off pieces that poke fun at some of the oldest classics of the art. The pretentious posing and overall archaic air of “La Sylphide” often seem self-satirizing in traditional performance, antique in sentiment and inflated in self-seriousness. The Trocks, of course, have a field day with a version they call “ChopEniana” (misspelling intended), with a platinum blond hero (Brock Hayhoe, trapped in his own daffy fog) and a corps at times at war with each other.

Also on Tuesday’s bill at the Harris Theater, the Trocks’ “Le Grand Pas de Quatre” saucily mocked a quartet of great ballerinas who came together for an all-star showcase in 1845. Nothing is as natural a target for comedy as pompous hauteur, and the tyrannical grandiosity of Fernando Medina Gallego, the dancer evoking Marie Taglioni — the eldest of the original foursome — is a stitch. Posed with delicacy and seeming refinement, with the mere glint of his eyes (empowered by gargantuan fake lashes), he forces one co-star to keep lowering his groveling bow — ballet protocol as czarist torture. (Hayhoe manages great leaps here as a ballerina.)

The Trocks’ humor is quintessentially broad: Splits that don’t ease to the floor gracefully but plunk with a thud; corps members who slap the floor in the middle of a sequence as if at a hoedown; exits that exaggerate ballet’s fondness for milking every moment.

But keen parody always turns on some level of mastery of the target, and here the Trocks set the standard, with whipping turns (special kudos to Robert Carter), buoyant jumps and, most of all, uncanny speed that made their delicious finale, “Raymonda’s Wedding,” basically a case of exhilarating, old-fashioned ballet blitzkrieg.

And while there were plenty of star turns, both real and mock-delusional, none holds a candle to the great Paul Ghiselin, whose perennial “Dying Swan,” with its molting feathers and funky chicken interpolations, may well by now have eclipsed Anna Pavlova’s original.

Chicago Tribune