The Trocks were in town for one night only and — as always — they quickly won the audience over with just a bat of a gigantic false eyelash. Presenting classical ballet in parody form and en travesti, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has been keeping audiences from all over the world thoroughly entertained since its inception almost 50 years ago.
One doesn’t go to the ballet and expect to hear bursts of laughter coming from the audience, but that is what an evening with the Trocks (as they are affectionately called) is all about. It starts when you open the program and read the Russianized names. There was Ludmila Beaulemova (pronounced bowl-them-over) and Nadia Doumiafeyva (do-me-a-favor) as well as the four brothers from the Legupski (leg-up-ski) family, not to mention Maya Thickenthighya (thick-in-thigh-ya) — a heaven-forbid name for a ballerina. Each member of the 12-man company has both a female and a male persona (and bio) which are all quite hilarious.
It was when the curtain rose Jan. 31 at the Duncan Theatre in Lake Worth Beach that the real fun began. First up on the program, and intentionally without narrative structure or definite characters, was ChopEniana, looking just like a true romantic classical ballet with a corps de ballet dressed in archetypal long white tulle tutus complete with a set of little willis wings. However, the program notes said that ChopEniana was an “abstract” ballet and “although it atmospherically suggests ‘Giselle’ and ‘La Sylphide,’ the sentiments aroused spring from the sublime music of [Frédéric] Chopin.”
The dancers rose competently up onto their pointe shoes demonstrating their ballet technique. Their port de bras were especially lovely. Then came the first snafu — a collision on stage. One dancer gestured to the other with a sneer “I’ve got my eyes on you” before slipping quickly back into the changing patterns and formations. The audience laughed. It was showtime.
The false lashes on the male dancer playing the male lead (Nicholas Khachafallenjar a.k.a. Haojun Xie a.k.a. Maya Thickenthighya) were twice as long as those of the ballerinas whose masculine chests were peeking out here and there from the corsets of their tutus as they dipped deep to touch the floor in their balancés utilizing the expressive torso of the Russian ballet technique. What’s not to enjoy?
Grunya Protazova (Salvador Sasot Sellart) was the regal soloist in Dance of the Golden Tsarina, set to the music of Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky. Elegant and pristine in her beautiful technique, Protazova, dressed in rich fabrics and a golden headdress, truly tested one’s perception of en travesti. A helping of comedic flair was sprinkled into this well-executed solo. A handkerchief (which is often used in traditional Russian folk dances) was dropped from above onto the stage and Protazova, who never stopped dancing, kept tossing it offstage to get rid of it but each time that it was thrown back onstage, it was bigger and bigger until it so big it was dragging on the floor.
Not a company to shy away from the iconic, the Trocks’ next style of ballet to interpret was that of revered choreographer George Balanchine. The program explained that Go for Barocco was an example of “the new(neo) neo-new classic dance” from Balanchine’s “Middle-Blue-Verging-On Black-and-White-Period” and sure enough, the dancers who appeared in black, short-skirted practice dresses and sparkling rhinestone earrings zipped around showing trademark Balanchine moves interspersed with trademark Trockadero stage antics.
The leggy Helen Highwaters (Duane Gosa) and the savvy and speedy Minnie Van Driver (Ugo Cirri) led the first movement and were later joined by Colette Adae (Jake Speakman), Ludmila Beaulemova (Trent Montgomery), Maria Clubfoot (Alejandro Gonzalez Rodriquez), Anya Marx (Shohei Iwahama) and Eugenia Repelskii (Joshua Thake).
Go for Barocco was choreographed to the music of J.S. Bach by Peter Anastos, one of the founders of the company who also served in the early days as director, choreographer and performer.
Though it was not in the program, The Swan, a signature work for the company ever since it was founded, was added to the performance. Veteran company member Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter), who joined the Trocks in 1995, chose to camp it up and took the short solo over the edge to bawdy. Supphozova interjected cartoonish — almost ghoulish — grimaces as she bourréed back and forth fluttering her arms until she found her final resting place and folded over to die.
If you have never seen it, this take on Anna Pavlova’s historic solo is memorable, as one can never forget the cascade of white feathers falling out from underneath the tutu of the agitated yet slowly dying swan that littered the entire stage. Carter’s copious fawning bows during the curtain call were a humorous but well-deserved jab at the seemingly, never-ending bows taken at the ballet.
Next challenge? Tackling the female variations in Marius Petipa’s Paquita, which is for any ballet company (let alone an all-male ballet company) a true challenge as these variations are some of the most celebrated and most difficult examples of 19th-century ballet classicism. But that certainly did not faze the Trocks. They took them on, one by one.
The standout was Vavara Laptopova (Takaomi Oshira a.k.a.Boris Dumbkopf when he dances male roles), who had already wowed the audience in the opening dance ChopEniana with her outstanding bravura and dazzling jetés. Taking on Variation 6 and looking fabulous in her gorgeous tutu, Laptopova aced her turns whipping off multiple triple pirouettes en pointe and beautifully controlling her double attitude turns. The cherry on top was her ending with its 32 fouettés where, without budging an inch, she nonchalantly threw in a change of spot revolving her focus clockwise around the stage for her last fouettés before pulling and nailing a clean finish. And who said men can’t dance en pointe?
It’s my hope that the Trocks keep on trocking for another 50 years.