If you’re one of those people who has always felt that the ballet world takes itself a little too seriously, an evening with New York City’s famous pastiche ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo might be the perfect antidote. “The Trocks”, as they are affectionately known, are an all-male company who offer ballet – complete with pointes and tutus – from a gloriously irreverent perspective.
Even before a single pirouette has been executed in this UK tour, the pre-show announcement (made in a preposterous, faux-Russian accent) gives us a sense of the deliciously humorous production to come. The company apologises, says the announcer, for the absence of the ballerina “Natalia Notgudinov”.
The show begins with the Trocks’ very special interpretation of Act 2 of Swan Lake. If you can imagine Mel Brooks and Eddie Izzard collaborating on an “action transvestite” ballet, you might have something approximating this brilliantly executed lampoon.
In this ludicrously literal version, the demonic Von Rothbart fires lightning bolts from his finger tips. Prince Siegfried pays as much attention to his unconvincing blonde wig as he does to his dancing; he even stops to pose for his adoring (and clearly smitten) friend, Benno, to take his photograph.
Swan Lake wouldn’t be Swan Lake, however, without the greatest of ballerina roles, Princess Odette. The only drawback here is that the fragrant beauty is played by a hirsute bloke whose Sean Connery-like chest hair makes an all-too-visible appearance above the plunging neckline of Odette’s gown.
In Go for Barocco, the company – attired in little black ballet dresses, with flowers in their hair – dance to the music of JS Bach with all the feminine grace of Michael Winner wrestling a hippopotamus. Their movement veers wildly, and hilariously, between Olympic walking (which is, in any case, always comical) and an All Blacks rugby team haka (the warlike gestures of which do not assist the piece’s pretensions to delicate femininity).
Throughout this lovely show, the performance is a perfectly balanced combination of genuinely accomplished dancing and wonderfully timed comic cock-ups. From the solo dancer who moults feathers across the stage to the diminutive performer trying desperately to pick up his giant partner, the extraordinary skill of the Trocks proves that to undo ballet, one must first be able to do ballet.
Touring the UK until April 16. Details: http://www.danceconsortium.com
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on March 9 2011
© Mark Brown