We’ve seen in Australia enough crumbling versions of once great Russian ballet companies, to know where The Trocks are coming from. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, as the company is formally called, is part homage to and part travesty satire of the traditional Russian ?gr?allet company. This New York company of all-male dancers knows what is ridiculous about the traditions of classical ballet but, after 30 years, The Trocks also have the experience to be damned good at dancing its beauty.
On their fifth tour of Australia, the Trocks are a delight and a powerful reminder of what blokes in drag -“ and in this case nimbly en pointe -“ can express. An announcement with a heavy Russian accent introduces us to the cast of ballerinas and to names like Sveltlana Lofatkina, Margeaux Mundeyn and Lariska Dumbchenko. Up first is Les Sylphides, reinterpreting the romantic original performed by the famous Ballet Ruse in 1909. The girls in knee-length white dresses spin en pointe as a daffy male lead called Stanislas Kokitch gets lost amongst them. The backstage rivalry between such exalted ballerinas is here played out with vicious scene-stealing and a fine mockery of the onstage conventions of deference between ballerinas. Their timing and physical accomplishment are impeccable -“ when they want it to be -“ but each girl, whether pretty boy or giant hoofer, is fiercely individual. None of your dead poker-faced dancers here.
In an extract from Le Grande Pas De Quatre, The Trocks actually recreate a 19th century ballet originally designed as a showpiece for four rival ballerinas -“ and here all hell breaks out between them. But each of our Trocks girls is masterful and unique in her role when you choose to take her seriously.
The death of the swan, a signature of the legendary Anna Pavlova in Swan Lake, is here danced as a terminally moulting fowl by Ida Nevasayneva -“ an hilarious send-up but somehow affecting as well.
Director Eugene McDougle keeps all his girls in line, achieving a seemingly impossible balance between high camp postures and ridicule and exact choreographic technique. By the end, with the exuberantly costumed Raymonda’s Wedding, the company is almost playing it straight and the subtle laughter is even more delicious. The Trocks are a guaranteed hoot for people who know nothing of ballet and an absolute must for those who think they know the originals.
The Trocks are at the State Theatre until this Saturday 15 October.