Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Spoleto Highlight – The Trocks

Posted 6/2/2010 1:58:00 PM
Before the curtain went up on Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlos’ production of Go for Barocco, there were already several hints that this was not going to be your typical dance performance. First, there were the pink satin ballet slippers on display, autographed by one of the prima ballerinas. They were a size 12. Next, I opened the program to read some of the ballerinas’ bios. The first one read:

“Colette Adae was orphaned at the age of three when her mother, a ballerina of some dubious distinction, impaled herself on the first violinist’s bow after a series of rather uncontrolled fouettés voyages…”

Finally, the lights dimmed and a voice boomed over the loudspeaker in a thick Russian accent, reminding us to turn off our cell phones and that photography was not permitted. Flash bulbs, he said, reminded the fragile ballerinas of the gunfire of a Kremlin firing squad. By this time, the Spoleto Festival USA audience was howling with laughter and the lights had yet to come up on the stage.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or the Trocks, as they are affectionately known, is an all-male classical ballet troupe. But its act is way more than a simple drag show.

Each member of the troupe has a stage persona, an imagined Russian diva ballerina, with a fantastic name like Irina Kolesterolikova or Nina Enimenimynimova. But if you turn past the (hilarious) ballerinas’ bios in the Spoleto Program you will find the simple, straightforward bios of the real-life dancers in the company. There you’ll see names like the Joffrey Ballet. These are serious dancers who, under the direction of Artistic Director, Tory Dobrin, don’t take themselves too seriously.

It is, in fact, the stunning dance prowess of the company that makes the camp comedy work. Throughout the four-part performance the audience alternates between unadulterated admiration and unrestrained giggling. I found myself marveling at a dancer executing a perfect Fouetté en tournant, a series of stunning turns, utterly forgetting that I was watching a man, despite his black chest hair spilling over his tutu’s bodice. My revelry was soon ended, however, by the Trock’s spin on the classic choreography; a line of ballerinas wrapped in tulle, dropped like dominos on the right side of the stage.

This is the genius of the Trocks. They allow the choreography, the athleticism, the beauty of ballet to shine, but just as things start to get too serious, they lighten things up with a joke: a ballerina falling flat on her face or a tight-bunned dancer suddenly breaking out into the sprinkler or the running man. “The Dying Swan” from Swan Lake is performed beautifully, elegantly – but with a trail of molting feathers dropping from the swan’s disintegrating tutu.

I was expecting Go for Barocco to be sidesplitting and it was. I was expecting the dancing to be expertly performed and it was. What really surprised me was how much it excited me about ballet in general. Somehow watching these muscular men, far from the typical ballerina in size, shape or physique, take on the role with confidence and artistry (and the occasional pratfall) allowed me to see the art form with fresh eyes. The Trocks knock the dust off the sometimes stuffy ballet and open up the classical repertoire to new audiences. For instance, how many ballets have you been to where there were 10-year-old boys, not only wide-awake, but cheering a pirouette as if it were a grand-slam home run? I saw it happen at Go for Barocco.

For more information on the Trocks, visit their website at www.trockadero.org.