Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Canberra Theatre, November 6-7.
Reviewer: Michelle Potter
Hairy chests peeping over decorative tutus are definitely incongruous with the delicate view most have of the world of ballet. But as cheering, whistling, stamping audiences at the Canberra Theatre know, performances by the all-male dance troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are much more than body hair, outrageous make-up, huge false eyelashes and slapstick-style satire.
The Trocks, as they are familiarly known, don't have the technical finesse of their counterparts in regular dance companies, but they have amazing strength, can pull off feats that many elsewhere would envy and never even look as though they are tiring as they power through the performance, largely on pointe.
The program opened with a take on Act II of Swan Lake and finished with a version of Paquita, both 19th-century Russian classics. Swan Lake, with a decidedly phallic looking backcloth, was fairly predictable with its over-the-top mime telling the story of the swan queen who needs to escape the clutches of the evil character, Rothbart.
The choreography was recognisably that of the standard version we have been watching for years, with Trock additions and many subtractions.
But who could not be bewitched by a group of swans standing in a corner communicating with each other with bird-like pecks and twitches of the neck and head? They could have been out on Lake Burley Griffin!
But for me the middle section, a collection of four short pieces, was the most interesting. It was clear that this troupe, New York-based, was capable of much more than taking off the great 19th-century classics of the ballet world. They hone in, too, on American masters of the 20th century. In terms of choreography, Patterns in Space was almost pure Merce Cunningham, counterfeit but brilliant. Musically, it alluded to John Cage or any of the vanguard composers Cunningham used for his collaborative works. This middle section also included Go for Barocco, which was George Balanchine to a tee, from the costumes to multiple choreographic references.
Along with these two American parodies was a pas de deux, The Flames of Paris, and a moulting version of Anna Pavlova's famous Dying Swan solo. The Dying Swan fell a little flat, but public expectation probably demands its inclusion.
The Trocks gave us a fascinating evening of dance; enjoyable on so many levels.