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The Trocks on Tour!

19 September 2018 | Emily May

If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s drag race, and also a dance devotee, then you’ll love Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The Trocks, as they are affectionately known, are a New York based, and are the world’s foremost all male comedic ballet company. But unlike Matthew Bourne’s all male company of swans for his re-vamped version of Swan Lake, which rebrands the corps de ballet as more realistic, animalistic, and stereotypical masculine characters, the Trocks stay true to the traditional feminine roles in ballet by performing in drag (and in a clever, gender bending twist have men playing women playing men), with a few slapstick jokes and sass injections along the way of course.

All the performers don accentuated makeup, over the top tutus and of course hilarious drag names, which are drawn attention to a (perhaps) engineered cast change announcement delivered in a humorous and pronounced faux Russian accent. The names cleverly set the tone of the whole evening of ballet satire, as each name is its own self-contained joke – Nina Enimenimynimova (think eenie meenie miney mo!) is a personal favourite.

Image Credit: Zoran Jelenick
 
The comedic value then extends to the performance itself. The programme is made up of excerpts from different classical ballets, the first of which is Swan Lake Act II. This opening rendition of the Tchaikovsky classic is a particularly effective choice to enable pastiche performance, as it is so well known that humour is derived from the audience noticing the references and diversions from the original choreography. One prime example is the Danse des petits cygnes in which ¾ of the quartet perform the choreography accurately, whilst the final unruly cygnet flits between trying to steal the limelight, getting the steps wrong, and then finally giving up all together, stopping and walking whilst connected to their co-performers who are pas de chat-ing in earnest.

Image Credit: Zoran Jelenick
 
Moments such as these give the performance an affectionate pantomimic feeling, as if it has been put on by an amateur theatre group in your local town hall (an atmosphere that is accentuated by the quaint painted backdrops, and a cut out, glitter adorned swan puppet that is wheeled across the stage). However, the dancers of the Trocks are far from amateur as they have all trained at prestigious schools such as Joffrey Ballet School, The Ailey School and Central School of Ballet, and execute flying leaps and fast footwork throughout the duration of the evening. It’s a good job. Because to send something up, you really need to be able to do it expertly yourself, otherwise, it is in danger of being mere bitter mockery.

Image Credit: Zoran Jelenick
 
Instead of purely demonstrating their technical ballet ability, the Trocks also explode classical ballet conventions by having their male performers dance en pointe, a technique traditionally reserved for female performers, and in doing so, dispel myths that men and women in dance should only be restricted to performing certain movements that suit their body types. In this vein, in would be pleasing to a see an all-female company take up the same challenge of performing traditional male solos.
 
Aside from the captivating Dying Swan Solo, in which the committed soloist floats around the stage as feathers moult from their tutu, often missing their spotlight and finally collapsing a death less elegant than the original, the other pieces in the programme are from lesser known ballets, such as The Little Humpback Horse. Whilst they are performed at an equally high standard as Swan Lake, the jokes fall short as they are not so much exploiting the collective knowledge of the ballet to create satirical humor. They instead resort to simplistic, slapstick kicking, falling over and intentional mistakes, which gets predictable very quickly, and also eliminates any chance of understanding the narrative, as the storyline is lost in the process of a quick laugh being the sole aim. This being said, whilst the whimsical on-stage shenanigans might not be to everyone’s taste, it is undeniable that they attract a wider, more diverse audience to ballet, and welcome individuals to see high quality dance without the pressure of a formal night at the Opera House.

Image Credit: Zoran Jelenick
 
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is currently performing at The Peacock, London until 22 September, and then will tour the UK with venues including Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (28-29 September), Theatre Royal, Newcastle (2-3 October), New Theatre, Hull (5-6 October), Buxton Opera House (12-13 October), Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (16-17 October), Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury (19-20 October), Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (23-24 October), Eden Court Theatre, Inverness (26-27 October), Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (30-31 October), Grand Opera House, Belfast (2-3 November).
 

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