Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo: Ballet on the Moon ... But With Attack Swans Les Ballet de Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Dawn Davis, Fri., March 24, 2000
Ballet on the Moon ... But With Attack Swans
Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo:
In traditional ballets and traditional ballet companies, men do get the short end of the stick. Lift, carry, turn, lift, carry, turn, show off the ballerina, stand behind her, present her to the audience, do small short solo, then lift, carry, turn, etc. Back in 1974, when the Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo decided to don tutus and toe shoes, they caused a sensation. Who would have thought that men could dance on toe -- or would even want to? Actually, the "Trocks," as they are lovingly known, are a modern incarnation of en travesti dancers, performers who, due to a shortage of good dancers or for comedic effect, take on opposite gender roles. But that designation doesn't do them justice. They are the queens of sight gags, character bows, and the hilarious encore -- which this time was an Irish dance number, complete with fog. They take what could easily be a one-laugh gag -- a big, hairy man in toe shoes -- and wring from it every last comedic drop.
Apparently, I was not the only one anticipating the Trocks' return visit to Austin, because the Paramount was packed solid with an adoring audience. Bios of the featured dancers had the audience laughing even before the curtain parted. Some of the best were (hint: say the names out loud to yourself): Ida Nevasayneva, Iona Trailer, Tanya Doumiafeyva, and Mikhail Mypansarov, whose claim to fame is being "one of the first defective Russian male stars, who has been with the greatest ballerinas of our time and has even danced with some of them." Another hilarious bio painted American William Vanilla as the perfect being -- a dancer who is "extremely personable, the ballerinas enjoy dancing with him, the management finds him agreeable, his fans admire his directness, he photographs well, keeps regular hours, and never has a bad word to say about anybody; he will never really understand the Russian ballet."
Smugly pleased with their Swan Lake tutus and feathered caps, the dancers simpered, preened, bobbed heads, and communicated with a wildly exaggerated and campy sign language composed of ballet pantomime and real-world gestures. Between gags, they danced beautifully -- and damn, they were really good! Turbo-charged power ballerinas with amazing flexibility, the strength of well-trained men and the ability to spin like tops, they would leap ... and stay up ... and hang out ... and finally land. At times, it was like watching ballet on the moon, except this Swan Lake had attack swans.
The company tackled the work of diverse choreographers, spoofing the starkness and jazzy hip thrusting of neo-classical Balanchine ballets and the pretensions of modern choreographer Merce Cunningham, complete with John Cage-ish musicians whose assorted instruments included candy wrappers, scissors, spray cans, bubble wrap, and wooden clogs, played with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. Throughout, the Trocks used their intimate knowledge of dance and their flair for slapslick physicality to poke fun at the trials and tribulations of live performance. What dancer hasn't feared or experienced embarrassing costume problems, getting dropped by a bad partner, entering at the wrong time, or falling during an entrance? And what audience member hasn't cringed at one of these scenarios during a serious performance? I couldn't help thinking that in the Trockadero company, men finally get their turn to be the center of attention as they execute precise technique in beautiful costumes and huge toe shoes. And they shine with such a decidedly self-deprecating brilliance that one can't help but laugh with them and adore them.