Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
***** 5 Stars
For anyone who has never seen Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo [which included me until now] I must explain that they are a New York-based company of male dancers, all of whom have been trained and performed in classical ballet, and who have now seized with both hands the opportunity to embrace their inner diva, put on pointe shoes, and dance the female roles hitherto denied them. They have nothing to do with Monte Carlo – the company began in New York doing late-night ‘off the wall’ shows – no-one had any idea that 44 years later they would be touring the world and being greeted as rapturously by audiences in Japan as in Edinburgh.
The Trocks display strength, power, grace, beauty and exquisite comic timing…a fusion of classical ballet at its best and the merciless exposure of all that is pretentious and posey in the ballet world – the bitchiness, the rivalries, the competition – and the usually unspoken thoughts and attitudes that were here clearly expressed.
The Trocks’ first offering was Les Sylphides – a piece from the classical repertoire in which nothing very much happens: some girls in long white frocks dance about in the woods and have fun at the expense of a young man who strays into their path. The original was choreographed by Michael Fokine to the music of Chopin, and is a ‘mood piece’. I haven’t laughed so much for ages: not simply at the byplay between dancers and the witty sending-up of the whole balletic convention – and especially at the completely vacant face and aimless wandering of the lone male dancer who’d possibly strayed in from another planet, let alone another ballet…
Modern dance was sent up in Patterns in Space, as three dancers clad in wonderful figure-hugging panne velvet costumes leaped, stomped, posed and gestured while two wannabe soloist ‘musicians ‘ produced a pants-wettingly hilarious stream of “music” from a random assortment of objects including an egg whisk, bubble wrap, an electric-shaver-and-aerosol combination and, finally, a recorder – from which a single squeak emerged. The musicians were obviously more intent on making an artistic impression themselves than in having anything to do with the three dancers strutting their stuff behind them – so acutely observed and such an accurate parody!
La Trovatiara pas de cinq allowed three tall and feisty ballerinas to run rings around the two [tiny] men who supposedly had captured these Barbary pirate women – a delightful romp to the music of Verdi with many comedic moments and a whole lot of brilliant dancing. Following that, I would have preferred Olga Supphozova’s Dying Swan to have been performed completely straight – the dancing was so superbly expressive, it should stand alone. However, the seemingly endless stream of feathers falling from “her” tutu as she danced, and her sudden crippling attacks of sciatica kept the rest of the audience in gales of laughter.
There was a feats of fabulous frocks in the final piece – Paquita, originally a two-act ballet but now only existing in the form of the divertissement inserted into the original by Petipa, which the Trocks lovingly re-created for us. They were dressed in jewel-coloured tutus in pink, orange, red and crimson, a perfect foil for the cream tutu of the slender graceful principal dancer that one woman I spoke to wouldn’t believe was a man. They performed astonishing balletic feats – there was still had a little humour at the start but the piece was ultimately a showcase for the incredible technique of these dancers who could well rival “real” women with their grace, poise, elegance and physical strength.
This was a fascinatingly mixed programme which was greeted by almost constant laughter from the extremely knowledgeable audience – but which was also given the accolade of prolonged and appreciative applause for some extremely technically assured and jaw-dropping technique and artistry. In their encore, to New York, New York, the Trocks celebrated their home city and let down their hair in a chorus line number, giving us the opportunity once more to show our warm appreciation.
The evening was an absolute joy! Alas, we will have to wait two or three years to see them again in Edinburgh: anyone fancy going over to Belfast to catch the final performances of the Trocks’ UK tour??
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Run Ended.
Review by Mary Woodward