rocks top

The cast of Swan Lake Act II

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

ANY visit by the Trocks, or to give them their Sunday best name, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, is always a delight.

For those who have yet to come across them they are a ballet company like no other; talented, meticulous, accomplished, clever and wonderfully funny.

If you like ballet you will love them, recognising all the ballet jokes and the send-ups of all its affectations and foibles and, if you think ballet is  . . . well a load of tutus and blokes poncing about then you won’t be disappointed either.

There are loads of tutus – and blokes wearing them poncing about with great skill and superb execution for this is ballet in drag, so to speak.

Formed in 1974 in New York’s off-Broadway lofts, the company produces some wonderful parodies of classical and romantic ballet in the Russian style – right down to foot positions, which is where meticulous comes in. It might be done for laughs, but it is authentic laughs.

Most of the company are American but being Russian, sort of – Laszlo Major, one of the company is from Hungary which isn’t far away after all – gives plenty of scMaking a trotope for names such as Tatiana Youbetyoubootskaya who dances Odette, and was really danced by Philip Martin Nielson from New York and a graduate of the prestigious School of American Ballet.

The Making of a Trock: Carlos Hopuy becomes Alla Snizova

The men as men are what you would expect from any top class ballet company and as women the make-up is quite exquisite – although hairy chests are still a bit of a giveaway.

Even so it is still strange to see a man who looks as if he would be at home on a rugby field in a tutu, en pointe and, when not clowning, dancing Odette with admirable technique. For an experienced ballet dancer to learn to dance en point is not a huge step, I am told, but it is still a strange sight.

One of the numerous Leguspski brothers, Vyacheslav Legupski, danced by Italian Paolo Cervellera, took on the role of Prince Siegfried while Innokenti Smoktumuchsky (you get the idea on names), danced by Cuban Carlos Hopuy, was the diminutive Benno taking on the challenge of lifting the somewhat less diminutive Odette – we’ll call that one a draw.

Another Italian Raffael Morra was the red haired dervish of Von Rothbart in a moving finale to Swan Lake, killing off he Prince just like that, it was a finale which had given us an eight strong corps and four cygnets along with a few mishaps along the way. High kicks can be so dangerous.

Patterns in Space eschewed classical ballet for once and took us instead to the world of contemporary dance with a wicked parody of the late Merce Cunningham’s work.

While dancers Laszlo Major, Alberto Pretto and Jack Fulong Jr performed to music from Raffaele Mora and Paolo Cervellera who played everything from paper bags to Kazoos, gargled and made animal noises in a tuneless performance which the programme tells us is after John Cage . . .. another playful parody. 

The music is connected to the dancing only by being on the same stage while the dancers moved around with little purpose other than moving – and it was very funny.

Go for Barocco gave is an ensemble piece which shows what can go wrong when dancer hold hands and weave in and out and to close act two Raffaela Morra performed what has become a Trock signature piece, the Dying Swan – a very emotional piece, all en pointe and with lots of feathers.

Proving that this is not just a comedy act, the Trocks really can dance - Trocks have left to dance as principals in straight ballet companies – the final act sees Don Quixote, or rather it doesn’t as he and Sancho have been dropped for budgetary reasons so you are asked to imagine them.

The scene at the inn sees Carlos Hopuy, Benno from Swan Lake undergo a sex change to re-emerge as Kitri, the innkeeper’s daughter, while Laszlo Major is the poor barber she has fallen for.

This is largely danced straight, for the Trocks at any rate, expanding on the humour inbuilt in the 1900 Alexander Gorsky production of the Petipa/Minkus ballet in the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow.

You soon forget Hopuy is a bloke in a tutu and his pas de deux with Major is of the highest order. There are the odd extra laughs added, but this is party piece time with solos that would have brought rapturous applause had we been watching BRB rather than the Trocks.

Around them we have flamboyant gypsies, Raffaele Morra, again, as the very Widow Simone mother and Robert Carter as the old crone who turns into the fairy Amour.

To make ballet funny beyond a comedy sketch you have to be able to do it well in the first place and the Trocks go through the same punishing regimen of classes, sprains, ice baths, blisters, bleeding feet, blackened nails as any other professional ballet company.

At the end the 15 strong company lined up and as an encore gave us a snatch of Riverdance – look mum, no hands. To 11-11-15

Roger Clarke

10-11-15

Contents page Hippodrome Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre