Just when holiday pressures pile onto politics weighing us down, the irreverent, all male Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo returns to The Joyce Theater with a workout for your smile muscles. Imagine two acts of surprise, admiration and laughter.
The company features such accomplished terpsichores as Irina Kolesterolikova “discovered by kindly peasants, along with Rasputin’s boot, adrift in a basket on the river Neva….”, The Legupski Brothers – neither real brothers, real Russians, nor able to tell the difference between a pirouette and a jeté – “but…well…they do move about rather nicely…and…they fit into the costumes,” Boris Dumbkopf, “one of the first defective Russian male stars,” and Sonia Leftova, “The Prune Danish of Russian Ballet.”
Make no mistake, however, despite cheeky humor, exaggerated make-up, wigs, and full tutus, The Trocks take dance seriously. These are assiduously trained artists, en pointe, who execute just about everything for which women are known. To watch a solid, muscular body elegantly balance, move and pose arms with grace and focus, extend controlled limbs (allongé), ballon (bounce), and then bat her industrial strength eyelashes is a singular pleasure.
Classic ballet is discharged interspersing flat-footed, arm-pumping runs, a lift wherein the elevated ballerina is spreadeagled in exaggerated first position, patty-cake, leaps that result in consequences, being out of sync with the corps, fluffing one’s skirt in full whoops view, being carried like furniture…All of this takes discipline and strength as well as impudence. Partnering is both impressive and faux risky. Facial expressions are priceless.
Carlos Hopuy (aka Alla Snizova) and Long Zou (aka Ketevan Iosifidi) Photo by Zoran Jelenic
The seven-part Chopeniana “atmospherically suggests Giselle and La Sylphide.” We open with tableaux vivants. The white-tulled corps rises up on its toes swaying side to side, eying one another. A (purposeful) stumble is quickly corrected. Synchronized pas de valse (walse) steps show off precision.
The first pas de deux is performed by a deliberate prima saddled with a spaced out partner. She waves her hand in front of his face. No response. She dances off. He remains. She returns and yanks him into the wings. They’re back. She’s up on one toe, retiré (second knee bent in). He pushes her around by the waist like a roll of paper towels on a pole, lifts diagonally and drifts off still in position. Clearly she’s supposed to be raised and released. No dice. Her jerking head indicates – move me already! She lifts him.
The corps assumes position on the floor, neatly spreading skirts. A soloist circling the stage with extended leaps literally knocks someone over. The victim quietly curses, shakes her fist, rights herself. Dancers rise and align. Someone missing rushes on. They battement (one leg is moved outward from the body and in again) in unison, jump, arabesque, and turn, pairing off. Forward and back they move, leaning down, slapping the floor like a folk dance, assuming varied configurations.
A penché: two legs in alignment one en point, the other straight up and entrechat: jumping into the air, beating one’s legs, are skillful. While some of this is expected of male dancers, much is not and certainly never in toe shoes. Curtain call: “she” is given a small bunch of garish flowers, he a bottle of perhaps champagne at which he gazes with wonder. The prima switches gifts.
Photo by Costas Cacaroukas: L to R: Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia), Sonia Leftova (Boysie Dikobe), Helen Highwaters (Duane Gosa), Vera Namethatunenova (Jahmal Chase), Nina Enimenimynimova (Long Zou), Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo), Eugenia Repellski (Joshua Thake), Varvara Laptopova, (Takaomi Yoshino), Maya Thickenthighya (Haojun Xie), and Guzella Verbitskaya (Jack Furlong, Jr.)
Stars & Stripes Forever is inspired by the Ballanchine ballet. Choreography is lively, incorporating salutes, columns, marching, cartwheels, and a few Busby Berkeley arrangements. “Whoo!” the corps calls out enthusiastically. Step, step, hand to toe, jump in place landing en point.
The pas de deux in this ballet is less successful. While its female leaps with verve, her male partner is a bit clumsy; both are humorless. Still, two other vivacious principals whirl, cross, glare, and chase, each leading half the corps. There’s even a bit of high spirited baton twirling, including in-the-air catches, and deployment of cheerleading pompoms.
An American flag is unfurled as the company forms a moving star. Step, kick, salute, step…The encore features Johnny Mathis singing “Winter Wonderland.” Dancers offer a Rockette kick line. Multiple ovations follow. The unpredictable Trocks are ever a delight.
Costumes by Mike Gonzales are flattering and evocative.
Opening Photo by Elliott Franks: L to R Eugenia Repelskii (Joshua Thake), Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy), Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Morra), Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter)
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Ballet Master- Raffaele Morra
Program B: Chopeniana-Music by Frederic Chopin; staged by Alexandre Minz
And Stars & Stripes Forever-Music by John Philip Sousa; Choreography-Robert La Fosse — December 15, 2018
Program A: Le Lac Des Cynes (Swan Lake Act II)-Music -Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky
La Trovatiara Pas De Cinq Music-Giuseppe Verdi
The underwater scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse Music – Cesare Pugni
Through December 30, 2018