In a flurry of feathers, a bit of squawking, much flapping of arms—and, wait, what was that he stepped in?—the Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo winged into town yesterday and presented the opening night crowd at Meany Theater with a mixed bill of classical and modern ballet. From the popular Swan Lake Act II and grand pas de deux from Don Quixote, to an unannounced Dying Swan solo, some odd bits of Balanchine and the curtain-dropping Soviet-era Walpurgis Night, the Trocks exhibited—well, just about everything they could think of. Yet there’s not much traditional about this performance.
Truly, ballet is made a made-for-parody art form, super-stylized and with such quirky conventions that even the most ardent fans sometimes have a tough time suspending disbelief. Since the 1970s, the all-male Trocks have been tickling audiences by mocking those conventions: the ritual pantomiming, the outsized personalities, the unnatural postures and particularly the stereotypical gender roles. Hairy chests bursting from lacy bodices and beefy legs sprouting from pointe shoesare pretty much guaranteed to get a laugh. But at their best, the Trocks do more than slapstick and irreverence: They dazzle with their technique as well as the affectionate insider jabs at the foibles of their art form.
Fun fact: Former Trocks dancer Joshua Grant is now with Pacific Northwest Ballet.In fact, there is an element of competitiveness to their satire: these guys like proving that they can out-jump and turn their female counterparts. In the Don Quixote pas de deux, Carlos Hopuy (dancing the ballerina) shows an elegant line, as well as speed and flair. Both he and his lithe partner, the South African dancer Boysie Dikobe, can spin like tops and seem uninhibited by gravity—though there was a bit of opening-night roughness in the duet and some off-kilter landings.
Swan Lake, that classic tale of unrequited interspecies passion, was especially moving last night. The rather flighty Prince Siegfried—danced by Mischa Youloutski (Trystan Merrick), a blond noble danseur in the Peter Martins mold, but a tad more bouffant—partnered Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) asOdette. With her wilting attitude turns and ready-for-takeoff port de bras, Dumbchenko could definitely rend hearts. Her corkscrew pirouettes seemed endless, bolstered by the pumping arms of her prince. Later, the cadre of swans bourree onstage with such lightening speed their feet are a blur, like hummingbird wings.
The least effective piece of the night was the closing Walpurgis Night, inspired by the Bolshoi Ballet’s Valpurgeyeva Noch, “long respected,” the program says, “as a specimen of Soviet balletic camp.” A mashup of styles and costumes, including bare-chested fauns and scarf-fluttering nymphs, with Boysie Dikobe back as a fleet-footed Pan, this ballet wasn’t the best material for the Trocks brand of humor. It’s hard to parody something that is already camp.
It’s well known that the Trocks will do most anything for a standing ovation and last night, when the audience didn’t rise to the occasion after the death scene of Walpurgis, the cast, lined up for the curtain call, shamelessly burst into a Riverdance finale that got the desired result.
As always for the Trocks, and in accordance with “the greatest tradition of Russian Ballet,” there were a number of cast changes announced before the show and one missing ballerina. It seems Natasha Notgudenof slipped off to join the Grand Ballet Nacional de Tukwila.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Thru May 18, UW World Series at Meany Theater