It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. And based on Friday night’s program at The Egg in Albany, it seems that the all-male, cross-dressing ensemble is having an identity crisis.
The ensemble known for its silly, slapstick parodies of classic ballets danced by men with equally amusing stage names is now moving away from its roots – presenting itself as a serious contender in the rigorous art of ballet.
Perhaps it’s the sign of the times. Men wearing tutus and tiara and dancing their hearts out en pointe is not so absurd or hilarious anymore. Or maybe the company’s Artistic Director Tory Dobrin wants to show the world that in order to spoof “Swan Lake,” a dancer must be capable of dancing it full out.
Whatever the reason, the Trocks, as they are fondly referred to, are showing off their technique as much as they are their comic timing. The ensemble juxtaposed its knockabout staple “Swan Lake” alongside a mostly dignified rendering of George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” a challenging ballet for even the world’s greatest dancers. In these more sober presentations, including the mostly straight up dancing of the variations in “Raymonda’s Wedding,” leaves audiences a little bewildered – is this straight or satire?
Though inconsistent, the program was delightful. But I preferred the comedy, probably because that is what I expected. And besides, it’s always a joy to laugh.
There were plenty in “Swan Lake,” especially with the gaggle of swans who never quite achieve synchronicity. The laughter was also generous for “The Dying Swan,” a signature solo for all ballerinas. As danced by Olga Supphozova (aka Robert Cartier), “The Dying Swan” is an over-the-top melodrama for a creaky aging prima who seeks endless applause.
Both swan ballets have been in the 40-something Trocks’ repertory since its earliest days. And both obviously deserve to remain.
Interestingly, ripping away ballet’s pretensions inspires more people to go. The Egg, I was also happy to see, was full – not something that happens often with dance there or anywhere else. Maybe the lesson here is that “always leave them laughing” could be the antidote for anemic ticket sales for ballet.
But like the Trocks, I too find it hard to balance the love of laughter with devotion to the art. Both deserve respect – but sometimes you have to decide which side you are on.