Thursday, 31 March 2011

Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Birmingham Hippodrome

Wednesday 30th March to Saturday 2nd April 2011

Reviewed by Pete Millington 

I knew from the publicity posters that it was going to be a case of 'and now for something completely different' but hadn't quite expected the magnificent entertainment that is Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, affectionately known as the Trocks.

For starters the Trocks are an all male ballet company, originally founded in New York in 1974 and now having a worldwide reputation, who perform classical ballet in parody form. But this isn't just a case of 17 camp blokes in tutus sending up Tchaikovsky, because every member of the company is clearly an accomplished, agile, artistic and highly trained up professional dancer. Yes, the entire performance is filled with comedy and slap stick from start to finish, but the farce is subtle within some seriously impressive ballet.

A dancer misses their cue, another skips into the pillar at the side of the stage, a 6 foot 8 female dancer is paired with a 5ft 2 male partner, dancers trip over each other or are asked to assist their partner to stretch that uncomfortable final few inches and there are plentiful glances and assorted facial expressions ranging from vanity to disdain which could have been straight from a David Walliams character. Even before the curtain has risen the audience are chuckling away at the introductory announcements made in a Russian accent.

In coversation during the interval someone made the interesting comparison with Les Dawson when he used to play the piano badly - you know that in reality he must have been able to play piano well in the first place in order to play it badly so successfully and humourously. But even so, my guess is that Les Dawson was no piano virtuosa, whereas the Trocks have clearly spent large parts of their lives at the barre perfecting their pointe-work and the overall skill and stamina of the dancers is as awesome and spellbinding as one might see at any other night at the ballet.

Tonight's show included Les Lac Des Cygnes, better known as Swan Lake, Act Two. With Benno danced by Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Morra), Von Rothbart by Yuri Smirnov (Robert Carter) , Prince Siegfried by Ashley Romanoff-Titwillo (Joshua Grant) and Odette by Maya Thickenthiya (Emanuel Abruzzo). Just to hear Tchaikovsky's magical masterpiece, the world's best known ballet at full volume in the environment for which it was intended is a thrill in itself, the Troks' interpretation was both mysterious and moving, but with generous portions of hilarity.

After the first interval, Flames Of Paris Pas De Deux featured dancers Yakatarina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) and Andrie Verikose (Boysie Dikobe), followed by Go For Barocco with leading ballerinas Katerina Bychkova (Joshua Grant) and Lariksa Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra).

For me the highlight of the evening was the Dying Swan, a solo dance performed by Ida Nevasaneva (Paul Ghiselin) whose interpretation of an aged water fowl on it's last legs was pure genius. I'll say no more have to go and see it.

The final performance of the evening was Raymonda's Wedding by Alexander Glasunov (a traditionally confusing divertissement in two scenes) featuring pretty much the whole cast.

With a standing ovation at the end of the night the curtain went up one more time for a very convincing and rousing performance of Riverdance.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a great concept. The dancers are polished and professional and their renditions are amazingly faithful to the original works, the comedy being largely in "exaggerating the foibles, accidents and underlying incongruities of serious dance". Much mirth emmanates from watching the heavy bodies of male dancers playing the more delicate parts of swans, princesses and other roles traditionally danced by women.

A highly pleasurable and thoroughly amusing night of entertainment with classical music and beautiful scenery. If like me, you have never sat through a night of ballet before, try this as your introduction and I predict you will be left wanting more.

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