By Danielle Farrow
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (from New York) has built a great reputation over its 38 years and counting, and is definitely for your viewing pleasure whether you are a ballet enthusiast, just want to dip your toe – en pointe – into ballet waters, enjoy physical comedy or fancy the idea of watching men in tutus, fluttering mega-eyelashes.
For its UK tour, this all-male comedy ballet company, popularly known as the Trocks, offers the well-known in Les Sylphides and excerpts from Swan Lake, the reconstructed (the pas de six from 19th century La Vivandiere) and the 20th century’s fun-in-itself Walpurgis Nacht, a romp with Pan, Bacchus and various fauns and nymphs.
Along with slapstick gags and majorly-made-up-face-pulling there is some very impressive dancing. While artistic director Tory Dobrin says the company seeks to dance female roles in a male way, this is not always completely obvious, possibly due to audience expectations, but overall it is clear this is like a traditional panto dame: definitely a man in a frock, and beautifully traditional ‘frocks‘ at that. In fact, the most feminine appearances on stage come from those dancing male roles. These are well matched for humorous affect: one is completely in a world of his own, looking lovely, but having to be herded; another seems a mere boy (though highly skilled) barely able to contend with his spectacular Black Swan partner – Chase Johnsey as Yakatarina Verbosovich, performing beautifully with grace, strength and twitches of humour well-handled within both choreography and story.
Another highlight is Ida Nevasayneva’s Dying Swan (from Paul Ghiselin), a long-dancing member of the company who seemed very much like Charles Hawtrey with chicken legs and who provoked gales of laughter while still touching on the pathos of the role. In fact, there are a number of strong performers working well within the ensemble, with Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter), Viacheslav Legupski (Paolo Cervellera), Innokenti Smoktumuchsky (Carlos Hopuy) and Ludmila Beaulemova (Scott Austin) also impressive.
Go ahead, enjoy those names, for the comedy begins before the show even starts. In the programme and pre-show Russian-accented announcement, the Trocks draw on Russian traditional ballet for more than just their dancing, with their fascinating make-up, comedy names and biographies linked to scandalous lives and rivalries.
If the precision beauty of the Walpurgis Nacht dancing (particularly the synchronisation of the trio of ’nymphs’) were brought to the early face-pulling and some of the pratfalls were less telegraphed and occurred more naturally, the first ballet – Les Sylphides – would have it all. As it is, the program moves from grotesque farce to serious (though in a fun piece) ballet mode, with the most balanced mixture occurring in the middle, particularly with the Swan Lake sections.
Following all the point work and classical dance, a joyous celebration in a swing number rounds off the evening and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has provided great entertainment, brilliantly combining comedy, men in (very fancy) drag and highly skilled dance – a real treat!
Until 23rd February 2013, 19:30 (21:30) @ Edinburgh Festival Theatre