Hissing swans, pouting prima donnas, hairy ballerinas and a splendid send up of contemporary dance – yes, those dragalicious dancing boys Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are back.
Affectionately known as the Trocks, this troupe of dancers attracted a large audience at Wales Millennium Centre for their latest offering of their unique take on classical ballet favourites and forays into adventurous territory with the result being a standing ovation. Crazy stuff.
What sets these guys apart from just being a daft ballet parody act is the fact that they can dance and the applause and cries of brava from that audience are both for their ability to make us laugh out loud (frequently) but also to impress us with their technique, artistry, strength and character. This is not just a silly romp through the repertoire.
Yes, the huge false eyelashes flicker and defy gravity, the eye make-up dazzles and the smiles are as false as a politician’s promise, the humour is physical, sometimes frankly and unashamedly slapstick, and of course well-rehearsed but retains the freshness of apparent spontaneity and accidental slipups. The show revels in the absurdity of ballet, mimicking the hand gesture code signals to fabulous effect, accentuating the silly plots, out panto-ing the panto elements, and reducing vast ballets to a zippy summary of the story. Yet this is very much an homage to the art form as demonstrated by their commitment to ensuring that they also show us they adore ballet through those skills and giving us thrilling performances when the comedic capers are temporarily camped (no pun intended).
The send up of Swan Lake was the funniest part of the evening with every opportunity for fun and frivolity exploited. Whether that is not being able to take the weight of the ballerina, knocking one swan senseless with a particularly high kick, lots of hissing and bird-like head movements and self-satisfied glances at the audience when a particularly difficult solo dance is executed.
The great ballet theme of doomed heroines, this time the Dying Swan, is revisited later in the evening when we have an equally rib-tickling, feather-malting big bird.
For anyone who has had to try to write notes for abstract contemporary dance movement and music, Patterns in Space, the delicious Merce Cunningham parody, with numbing abstract dance movement set to John Cage-inspired music, is a scream. The two on-stage musicians start with the dreaded sound of marimbas and castanets then work through a box of alternative “instruments” ranging from bubble wrap to brown paper bags, aerosol sprays, scissors and even gargling, all done with the utmost serious conviction.
Other sections of the programme are most enjoyable actually for the dance rather than humour although, of course, these dangerous divas cannot resist the opportunity to misbehave.
George Balanchine’s ballet-inspired Go for Barocco, is a revelation of the boys’ technical prowess with its driving rhythmic demand, needle sharp pointework but the intricate weaving in and out has to end in confusion. Similarly in the closing work, the race through Don Quixote, our prima ballerina assoluta and her handsome male partner (confused?) impress with breath-taking balances, fouetté turns and elegant jetés.
The programme notes are great with not only remarkably succinct summaries of ballet plots and explanation of choreographic choices, such as explaining that in this Don Quixote neither he nor Sancho Panza appear due to economic reasons and that is no great loss as all they do is wander around aimlessly getting in everyone’s way.
This is a company that delights in melding the joy in exploiting the conceits, excesses, egos, adulation and foibles of ballet with respect for dance, dancers and the repertoire.
Until October 17