Review: Ballet Trockadero will make your holidays bright (and you’ll LOL)
By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, December 19, 2016
Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo (referred to as “The Trocks”) is made up of an international group of professional dancers who have a strong affinity and understanding of the formal, stylized art of classical ballet. What differentiates this company from others is that these dancers are all men en travestie who dance en pointe. In other words, the dancers are all men in drag who dance in pointe shoes, a technique that few male ballet dancers ever experience. Since 1974, The Trocks have entertained audiences with their particular mix of traditional dance with silliness, laugh-out-loud humor, clever parody, satire and/or all-out physical slapstick.
The laughs work because the company dances with fine technique, brio, conviction, and a lot of talent. Balletomanes can enjoy the inside jokes that satirize details of the choreography; and those who may never have seen a ballet can appreciate the broad humor and the physical ability of the dancers. In the midst of the goofiness, ridiculous pratfalls and silly gestures, it’s also possible to feel awed by the exquisitely touching execution of a famous pas de deux or by the number of centered fouétte turns, a measure of any ballerina. These guys can really dance, are believable as ballerinas, and can “sell” a performance. The sense that they were having as much fun as the audience is a vital element, I think, of why they are so entertaining.
I attended a performance of Giselle (Act II) and Paquita, two familiar mainstays of the classical repertoire (Program B). Basically, the original choreography was presented and seriously performed; but frequently tweaked to exaggerate the movement for comic effect, and embellished for added humor.
Before the curtain rises, there are laughs just hearing the Russian-sounding names being announced over the loudspeaker. The dancers have chosen to be called names like Tatiana Youbetyabootskaya or Ida Nevasayneva, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the caché of being Russian-trained.
In Giselle, the corps de ballet looked more like the cast of “The Walking Dead” than traditional Wilis — but the zombie-like makeup added to an edge of nonsense. On the other hand, Nina Immobilasvili (Alberto Pretto) was a touching Giselle. “She” danced with the lightness and delicacy associated with the part – along with an ability to crash into scenery for a laugh. Her Albert (Vyacheslav Legupski/Paolo Cervellera) was a fine partner, and received cheers for his beats. Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (Olga Supphozova/Robert Carter) was appropriately magisterial and menacing, even though there was a silly flower standing straight up on top of “her” head.
Paquita is an entertainment with no story, full of bravura highlights and usually performed at galas to show off the virtuosity of dancers. It was choreographed by Petipa, the grand master of classics like Swan Lake. Yakaterina Verbovich (Chase Johnsey) and one of the “Legupski Brothers,” Sergey (Giovanni Goffredo) led the company in grand style. The ballerinas performed their showy variations wearing traditional, saucer-like, brightly colored tutus (along with hugely thick, fake eyelashes); comported themselves in the strict posture of this classical-style ballet; and performed the technically difficult choreography well (along with some gymnastic somersaults, which are certainly not in Petipa’s choreographic vocabulary). At the same time, there was some hanky-panky going on behind the back of the ballerina.
For an encore, the company donned foam-rubber Statue of Liberty crowns and did a Rockettes-style number to the song, “New York, New York”. They may have lacked the precision of the Rockettes, but they made up for it with their flamboyant joie de vivre. So, a good time was had by all.
Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Avenue) December 13-31, 2016. Tory Dobrin, Artistic Director; Isabel Martinez Rivera, Associate Director/Production Manager; Liz Harler, General Manager; George Daugherty, Music Director.
Giselle: Music by Adolphe Adam; Scenario by T. Gautier and V. De Saint Georges; staged by Yelena Tchernychova after J. Perrot and M. Petipa; costumes by Mike Gonzales; décor by Edward Gorey; lighting by Kip Marsh
Paquita: Music by Ludwig Minkus; Choreography after Marius Petipa; staged by Elena Kunikova; costumes and décor by Mike Gonzales; lighting by Kip Marsh.
Dancers: Paolo Cervellera, Jack Furlong, Jr., Paul Ghiselin, Giovanni Goffredo, Duane Gosa, Carlos Hopuy, Chase Johnsey, Laszo Major, Philip Martin-Nielson, Raffaele Morra, Christopher Ouellette, Matthew Poppe, Alberto Pretto, Giovanni Ravelo, Carlos Renedo, Joshua Thake, and Long Zou.
Cover: Members of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; photo: Zoran Jelenic.