Sunday, January 30, 2011

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Trocks: Men en pointe delight audience at Ohio Theatre

A sold out, standing room only audience displayed abandoned delight, complete with “bravos” and much applause, at the January 29 performance of LES BALLETS TROCKADERO de MONTE CARLO, lovingly called by their many admirers, The Trocks. The program was sponosored by DANCECleveland and Cuyahoga County Community College.

What was all the shouting about? On the surface, men were dancing in tutus, en pointe, many portraying roles such as the Swan in SWAN LAKE, traditionally reserved for women. Sound like a device to get people into the theatre? It is. But these are not guys who just spoof and do pratfalls. This is an international troupe of well trained ballet dancers who have added to the usual male role in ballet of being partners who carry the females around, are given a few minutes of solo circle leaps and a few bravado movements. They are ballet dancers who have wonderful senses of comic timing and an ingenious choreographer. This is the company that the New York Times dance reviewer terms, “Partly Goofy, Part Glorious, All Man.” I might add, “Totally audience pleasing.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male ballet corps which parodies the conventions and clich├ęs of romantic and classical ballet. It has been around since 1974 and has toured the world to great accolades.

The troupe, which last appeared in the area around fifteen years ago, opened their program with SWAN LAKE, ACT II, danced to the music of Tchaikovsky. This, their signature piece, tells the story of a beautiful princess, turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer, who is saved by the love of a prince. It's probably the world's best known ballet. But, if you haven't seen the Trocks version, you haven't seen SWAN LAKE. Consisting of beautiful toe work, fine partnering, glorious costumes, a princess with facial stubble, pratfalls and comic interactions between the dancers, the audience transitioned between “bravos” and hysterics.

PATTERNS IN SPACE was a “post modern dance movement essay” in which three mismatched dancers tried their best to hold the audience's attention with creative movements, while competing for attention with two nerdy “musicians” who played the underscoring with paper bags, kazoos, bubble wrap, and pots and pans. It was Spike Jones meets classic dance, with Jones, in the form of “musicians” Lariska Dumbchenko and Yuri Smirnov winning. (All of the dancers have “Russian” as well as their traditional names. The Soviet designators are all plays on words, such as Legupski, Paranova, Thickenthighya, Enimenimynimova and Ida Nevasayneva.)

LE GRAND PAS DE QUATRE found four dancers in constant competition to upstage each other. Danced completely en pointe, the ability of dancers was only eclipsed by their ability to get outlandish attention.

A quick version of THE DYING SWAN, complete with a molting bird who kept losing its feathers while displaying the pangs of death, made the death more fun than tragic. Those who have seen the Academy Award nominated movie THE BLACK SWAN, could only shake their heads and realize what a beautiful piece this could be when danced correctly. Beautiful, but not as much fun.

RAYMONDA'S WEDDING was a “traditionally confusing divertissement in two scenes,” highlighted by a plot which “loses something in translation.” Danced in classic ballet form, though the uneven story line “has baffled audiences since its premiere in 1898,” it was visually attractive and, as most of the program, filled with wonderful laugh sequences. The “women” were all taller than their partners, causing visual illusions of tiny men lifting gigantic women. (Many of the “females” were well over 6 and a half feet tall in their pointe shoes.)

Capsule judgement: “This was the whole package,” “What fun,” “My goodness, they are really good dancers,” and “I hope we don't have to wait another fifteen years to get them back!” These were comments made by the delighted dance concert-goers after the performance of LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO. I definitely agree!