Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Ballet with Balls

When I first saw Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo in Toronto during the first winter of my marriage, the programme notes alone were worth the price of admission (I'm quoting from memory): Giselle Act Two - Synopsis - Hilarian, a gamekeeper (probably a poacher) comes to lay flowers at Giselle's grave, but is frightened away by what appear to be dangerously large pests...."

The performance was memorable too: Albrecht doing laps around the stage, looking wildly about him, then doing a couple more; Giselle emerging from a coffin like Dracula; Hilarion being tossed off (one...two...three!) the stage by ticked-off Wilis. The programme also featured a well-aimed kick (in simply enormous dance slippers) at Agnes de Mille.

When I saw them for the second time, about five years ago, most of the original dancers were gone. AIDS had decimated the original company. (I don't know if it's a requirement that to be in the "Trocks" you have to be gay; but it's evident that most, if not all, of these guys are.) I enjoyed a programme that featured their take on Swan Lake and The Dying Swan, along with a Spanish solo and some mean Balanchine. The next day, the dance critic gave a lukewarm review and described The Dying Swan as the final act of Swan Lake. The awful thing is, I don't think she was joking.

So last night, we went to see "The Trocks" for the third time and brought younger daughter along. The guys really were in top form, offering once again the second act of Swan Lake and The Dying Swan, plus Pas de Quatre (the showcase number for Marie Taglioni and her three most famous rivals back in 1845), the pas de deux from Le Corsaire and another Spanish number called Majisima (from the 1885 opera El Cid). I was very intrigued this time to note that, while Swan Lake, Pas de Quatre, and The Dying Swan were done for laughs in all their campy glory, Le Corsaire and Majisma were almost entirely played straight, if you'll pardon the expression, rather like the singers performing in a drag club. I guess The Trocks have picked up on a sad fact of life: comedy is seen as a lesser expression of the arts. Funny books are perceived as being not as well-written as serious books; people are astonished to discover comedians can actually act; and men with hairy chests and pits, huge toe-shoes, and packages under their tutus are not seen for being the remarkably gifted dancers that they are. I have never understood this. The old adage is so true: comedy is hard.

I had brought along two sets of bird binoculars because we were in the third level of the loges, because although The Trocks body-language is clear as a bell (piqued, imperious and remarkably feminine), a great part of the fun is in the facial expressions. Younger daughter seemed to be having a splendid time, but the second intermission was a bit of a hiccup. She returned to our box and sighed: "Why are we staying here?" This was her first two-intermission evening, you see. While the Resident Fan Boy and I debated whether to make a break for it, the house lights dimmed for Majisima, and we were very glad we stayed, not only for the quality of the dancing (although I had to struggle with keep my mind clear of The New Pornographers), but for the joyous jitterbug encore to "Sing Sing Sing" in response to the rapturous audience ovation, as danseur danced with danseur, and ballerina with ballerina, all decked out in their Spanish garb, grooving to Benny Goodman. They weren't playing it for laughs, then, either.


Jane Henry said...

Oh that sounds so much fun. Do they ever tour England???

Impressed by your blogging stamina so far...

Persephone said...

4 down, 24 to go...
Jane, the link to the Trocks official website is at the beginning of this post. They regularly go to the UK and will be there this month! Looks like they'll be within striking distance of you in March...

February 17, 18 Theater Royal, Glasgow, UK
February 20, 21 Festival Theater, Edinburgh, UK
February 23 The Playhouse, Nottingham, UK
February 26 - 28 Theater Royal, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
March 3, 4 Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes, UK
March 6, 7 Lowry Centre, Salford, UK
March 10, 11 New Victoria Theatre, Woking, UK
March 13, 14 Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, UK

Jane Henry said...

That will learn me not to look at links properly... Woking's a bit of a schlep from here, and have no idea what I am doing in March (at the moment I have difficulty knowing what I am doing next week), but I'll certainly look into it, thanks!

F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

oh god bless Les Trocs.
I saw them in Melbourne Australia in the 1970's, and wish I had seen their jitterbuggin ovation response with you.

re dying swans: recently saw Kiev Ballet interpretation, lotsa mean black swans and Big Fight involving ripping off of velcro-ed black wings. Dark. Russian.

Persephone said...

That's nuthin', F.G.! Have you ever seen the old National Ballet of Canada's rendition of S.L., choreographed by the late great Eric Bruhn? I call it the "homicidal swans" version. In the final act, Rothbart makes the corps de ballet push the Prince over a convenient cliff, and Odette floats offstage flapping her arms, a prisoner forever...
Welcome to my humble blog.