Ballet with belly laughs

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

“IT'S ballet, Jim, but not as we know it,” as Dr McCoy might have spotted as the all-male cast set out to prick the more precious bubbles floating around ballet.

Anyone who has seen any serious ballet or contemporary dance will know how stylised it can be and the affectations which can creep in from walking on stage to take up a position and awaiting the music to start to the slow motion flounced leaving.

Lower down the ballet tree also come the stage school fixed smiles and exaggerated gestures. So just think of every moment in ballet that has made you smile or cringe, every cock-up and fall, missed cue and pretentious gesture and there you have the Trocks, as they are affectionately known, wickedly sending up the world of dance.

This is not just an extended comedy sketch though. If you really want to parody something you need to be pretty good at it in the first place, the Tommy Cooper and Victor Borge principle.

Thus we have a troop of classically trained ballet dancers who have danced with some pretty impressive companies and their skill and technique is there for all to see – even in tutus.

Yes, we have ballerinas as well, hairy chested and a little heavy thighed, but blokes all the same who not only dispel the myth that men can't dance en pointe but do it to a level many ballerinas in leading companies would not sniff at.

These lads are no slouches and lots of party pieces of principal dancers in  more . . . conventional ballets are there and are done exceedingly well including some impressive fouettés.

Throughout it all though is an element of fun and humour starting with the initial announcement in faux Russian listing that night's dancers, which included Yuri Smirnov, Ashley Romanoff-Twitwillow and, as Odette, Maya Thickenthiya.

Sadly we were told that that Natalia Notgudinov would not be appearing – a great loss that.

The Trocks opened with Act 2 of Swan Lake  with Smirnov (Robert Carter) sending lighning bolts from his fingers as Von Rothbart and Prince Siegfried, Romanov-Twitwillow (Joshua Grant) as much concerned with his wig and appearance as Odette – he even stops mid dance so his mate Benno danced by Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Morra) can take a picture.

There is also the problem that the Prince and Odette are struggling with the sign language of ballet gestures which leads to some exaggerated explanations.

Add a corps de ballet who get in the wrong position, take out a cast member with a high kick and manage to not only fall in a heap but then introduce a bunny hop in Dance of the Cygnets and this wasn't quite how Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov envisioned it back in 1895.

It is very funny though.

Grant reappears in tutu in his alter ego of Katerina Bychova in the last piece, Raymonda's Wedding and as a sort of nymph in a skimpy black tunic in a homage to modern dance in Go for Barocco. Six dancers in a sort of Health and Efficiency tribute piece

If you understand that Grant is built like an international standard back row, an ideal No 7 or No 8, then obviously you pair him with the smallest dancer on stage every time.

Go for Barocco gives us elements of Olympic walking, a bit of the All Black's Haka and lots of those intricate  twists and turns, in and out, over and under cat's cradles all holding hands so beloved of modern dance choreographers.

Flames of Paris Pas de Deux was a little strange in that apart from a few flourishes and flounces it was almost straight dancing by Yakatarina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) and Andrei Verikose (Boysie Dakobe) who were actually very good.

One of the highlights was Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin) who gave us the Dying Swan with a touch of funky chicken, and probably, as the legs started to wobble, bird flu thrown in was well – all while shedding feathers through the complete piece which, incidentally, was done entirely en pointe – including getting up from a false alarm death.

In the final piece Raymonda's Wedding we had colliding with the scenery, a ballerina in glasses, a diminutive Dakobe attempting to lift Grant and some quite stunning dancing from Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) in a joyous pastiche of classical ballet.

The encore, with mist billowing across the stage, saw the entire ensemble give us a burst from Riverdance.

You can't beat it. Ballet with belly laughs. To 02-04-11

Roger Clarke

Another pointe of view . . . .

****

WELL done lads! The all-male cast of the Trocks, as they are affectionately known, deliver a brilliant programme of ballet brimming with skill, poise and humour on their latest visit to Brum.

And these remarkable men in tights are able to switch to ballerinas in the flick of a false eyelash, performing as swans in a version of Swan Lake that has to be seen to be believed.

Make no mistake, there is beauty in this ballet even though the guys have some knockabout moments....like falling over, crashing into the side of the stage, or even missing a cue or kicking a colleague. It's choreographed to raise a laugh.

 Even before curtain up the announcer, with an outrageous accent, turns on the chuckles by mentioning some of the key dancers - Ashley Romanoff-Titwillow, Colette Adae, Stanislas Kokitch and Ivan Legupski.

But when the dancers take over you can only admire their ability to produce movements that even a top ballerina would be more than happy with.

There is an eye-popping scene when the diminutive Boysie Dakobe dances with and lifts a huge partner, and another featuring Paul Ghiselin as a feather-shedding, knock-kneed dying swan. Even in their tutus the lads' legs look great.

A standing ovation from a section of the large audience came before the cast closed the show with a stunning Irish Riverdance.

Fellas....you were fantastic. The men-only ballet closes on 2.03.11.

Paul Marston 

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