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Wonder Boys the 'Trocks' Prove a Class Act

by Joanna G. Harris
March 25, 2014
Zellerbach Hall
Bancroft Way at Telegraph
(2430 Bancroft Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
510.642.9988
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
All you've ever known, believed and worshipped about the ballet world is denied and then confirmed by watching Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo or the "Trocks" as they are affectionately known.

This extraordinary all–male company not only has perfected toe-dancing technique, revived the works of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but also exquisitely satirized those works.

The one-night appearance at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall featured four numbers, with "The Dying Swan" and a bit of Irish step dancing as extra treats.

The program began with "Le Lac des Cygnes" (Swan Lake, Act II). In this version, the hero Prince Siegfried (Vyacheslav Legupski) is accompanied by Benno (Innokenti Smoktumuchsky) and of course falls in love with the white swan, Odette (Lariska Dumbchenko). (Note the dancers whimsical stage names. We only learn their real names by closely searching the program notes.)

Siegfried was a clutz: Benno, the cross bow shooting friend both (in this version) compete for Odette. Of course Siegfried is tall and blonde so he gets to dance the famous 'pas de deux' while Benno is shoved aside. He does, however, get to assist in the lifts, since Odette is over 175 pounds.

The four little swans (all of 5'10") dance the quartet perfectly and one falls down. The corps wave perfect swan wings throughout. Alas, as we know, horse games the evil Von Rothbart (Yuri Smirnov) reclaims his transformed princess at the end of Act II. While the "Trocks" make light of the ballets they perform, they do so with solid ballet technique.

The company rarely takes on modern dance works, but for this evening it presented "Patterns in Space," a take off of Merce Cunningham's "Points in Space". With the assistance of former Cunningham dancer, Meg Harper, we were privileged to see Jacques d'Aniels, Varvara Bratchikova and Helen Highwaters perform the leaps, jumps, twists and dead arm movements that characterize Merce's work. To the audience's delight, Lariska Dumchenko and Yuri Smirnov, took the roles of John Cage and a fellow musician doing the bangs, gongs and noises so associated with Cage's music. More dancers would have provided a greater satire on the complexity of Cunningham's original.

"Go for Barocco," a jab at Balanchine's neo-classical ballet style and his ballet "Concerto Barocco", featured Maya Thickenthighya and Giuseppina Zambellini and an excellent corps of four. To Bach's music and in black and blue tutus, this work was so well executed that we could be actually watching the NYC Ballet. Satire is best served by excellent performances. "The Dying Swan," to Saint-Saens' score danced by Maria Paranova(Carlos Renedo) molted divinely in the solo attributed to Anna Pavlova. The curtain call alone was one of the evening's many rewards as was the finale curtain, where the whole company joined together doing step dancing. What a group of experts in providing some of the best dance this season and certainly the best comedy.

The only work that fell a bit short, for this reviewer, was "Paquita" to that great cliché musician Ludwig Minkus. First brought to Russia from France by Marius Petipa, "Paquita" employs all the virtuoso possibilities of academic classical dance, enriched by unexpected combinations of steps. The soloists, Olga Supphozova supported by Cavalier Mikhail Mypansarov were a bit grotesque in appearance and exaggeration to be really funny, and although all the variations were done to a "T", somehow it didn't come off with the same grace.

But no matter. For 40 years the "Trocks" have brought fun, laughs and amazing skill to ballet (and now modern dance) classics. Given the state of 'real' ballet companies today, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is at the head of the class.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in 'Swan Lake'

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in "Swan Lake"


Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in 'Swan Lake'

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in "Swan Lake"

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