Review – Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo aka The Trocks, Programme 1, Peacock Theatre, 20th September 2015

The TrocksIt’s always a pleasure to welcome the Trocks back to the UK, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in two-and-a-half years, which is way too long. For this UK tour they’re starting at the Peacock Theatre in London with two one-week programmes, then taking in the rest of the country with a touring programme that combines the best of both London shows.

The BallerinasWhen you anticipate a Trocks performance, it’s the hilarious antics that you really look forward to, but you can never lose sight of the extraordinary dance talent within the company. There were some truly amazing performances in this show, at their best you won’t see better on the stage of the Bolshoi or at Covent Garden. Over the years one acquires an accumulated fondness for one’s favourite Trocks and two of my all-time favourites graced the stage at yesterday’s show; but every new tour gives you an opportunity to look out for new names, and there are plenty whom I can imagine will become firm favourites of the future.

The DanseursAfter the usual introduction, and the relief of knowing that all of their ballerinas are in a very good mood this afternoon, we started with their perfect staging of Swan Lake Act II. I have been spoilt by having seen the redoubtable M. Velour Pillaux (the brilliant Paul Ghiselin) take the role of von Rothbart many times, and no one quite captures ludicrous camp scariness and the sense of physical exhaustion all that running around induces quite like him. However, I really enjoyed Vladimir Legupski (Duane Gosa) as von Rothbart, deftly controlling the wayward Odette, victoriously blowing on his sharp-shooter. We’ve seen some great Trock Odettes too, but this was the first time we’d seen Miss Nadia Doumiafeyva (Philip Martin-Nielson) and she is Helen Highwatersextraordinarily graceful and feminine, whilst remaining ruthless with the inept Benno, a fantastically funny performance by Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Morra). Our Prince was the brilliantly dour Sergey Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) who had me in stitches from his first “mime conversation” with Odette. He did a brilliant slow walk across the stage routine. Our team of naughty cygnets also gave us a great allegro moderato, and, whilst it’s sometimes hard to identify individual Trocks in a group, I think it was Miss Maria Paranova (Carlos Renedo) who gave a particularly disobedient and impish performance. It’s always great to see how various dancers perform different parts of the dance in different ways, and I think you could watch this dozens of times and still get more out of it. Simply one of the funniest thirty minutes on any stage, anywhere.

Yakatarina VerbosovichOur Pas de Deux was Les Corsaires, and is one of those Trocks pieces where the sheer joy and artistry of the ballet completely eclipses the humour. The two dancers were absolutely brilliant – the immense strength of Araf Legupski (Laszlo Major), and the elegant grace of Miss Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) – make for an amazing coupling, overflowing with pizazz and chutzpah. The Pas de Six, Esmeralda, that followed, doesn’t have a terribly interesting narrative thread – it’s just one miserable woman being unsuccessfully cheered up by four girls and a wet bloke – but, as you would expect, Maria Paranovathey do it with pure Trocks style. On the face of it, all Nina Immobilashvili (Alberto Pretto) has to do as Esmerelda is to look constantly heartbroken – which she does very well – but her pointe work is out of this world. There is also a cute running gag with supporting artiste Helen Highwaters’ (Duane Gosa) offstage fruit basket. We end the second session with the execution of the Dying Swan – this time it was Miss Eugenia Repelskii who did the deed, with refinement, a delectable sense of loss and tragedy, and severe penniferous alopecia.

Nina ImmobiliashviliOur final treat is the grand staging of Paquita, an elaborate swirling and twirling ballet by Petipa with rousing tunes by Minkus. Our wonderful ballerina was the attitudinal but pinpoint accurate Yakaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) supported by the magnificently lugubrious and almost embalmed Vyacheslav Legupski (Paolo Cervellera), who nevertheless pays sexual attention to the hairy-chested Lariska Dumbchenko (Rafaella Morra on fine form) whilst La Verbosovich isn’t looking. Embellished with a sequence of immaculately performed variations by six of the ballerinas, it’s a splendid combination of great dancing and wonderfully stupid comedy. The afternoon was wrapped up with the splendidly incongruous Lord of the Dance curtain call, with more smoke on stage than in Nigel Farage’s fantasy pub.

Brilliant fun and amazing dancing. We’ll be back for Programme 2!

Review – Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Milton Keynes Theatre, 23rd March 2011

Ballets Trockadero de Monte CarloYay! The Trocks are back! Refreshed, revitalised and more athletic than ever! If you’ve seen them before you know they each take on the persona of a male and a female ballet star, from the finest Soviet tradition. You’ll also know this is no mere comedy show but a display of the most exquisitely controlled ballet you could possibly find outside the world’s top companies. We’ve been coming to see them for years now, and every time we get really excited at the prospect and always love their shows. I guess you could call us “fans”.

Yuri Smirnov Over the years, of course, one develops one’s favourites, and some of them were on stage last night. My favourite Trock of all time, Comrade Ida Nevasayneva, a.k.a. M. Velour Pilleaux, a.k.a. Paul Ghiselin, is the Ballet Master of the company and regrettably wasn’t performing. When he takes on the role of von Rothbart in Swan Lake he completely cracks me up, I can’t think of a funnier non-speaking performance. Last night though we had another really excellent von Rothbart, Yuri Smirnov, as performed by the brilliant Robert Carter. I had hoped Mr Carter’s other alter ego, Olga Supphozova, would play Odette, as his/her interpretation of that role can’t be beaten. However he was a great von Rothbart, maniacally evil when things are going his way, pathetically impotent when the Prince pulls stronger on the Odette tug-of-war.

Ashley Romanoff-Titwillow And what a Prince! Ashley Romanoff-Titwillow, as danced by Joshua Grant, absolutely embodied how splendid the dance can be on those moments when the comedy takes a back seat (which is never for long). His first solo was breathtaking. Mrs Chrisparkle gasped audibly. It was great. Maya Thickenthighya Odette herself was danced by Maya Thickenthighya (Emanuel Abruzzo in real life). He/she has joined the company since we last saw them and is a first rate new recruit. When you’ve seen the Trocks as often as we have, you get to see different incarnations of the same diva. She is very different from the Maya Thickenthighya I remember in the 1990s, who was a much more hirsute and stocky version!

Vanya Verikosa The supporting corps were marvellous as always, with extra special comedy brilliance from Vanya Verikosa (Brock Hayhoe). She really threw herself in to it. I also enjoyed Christopher Lam as Boris Nowitsky playing (not really dancing) Benno. Boris Nowitsky Great with the facial interpretations; best Benno I’ve seen since Igor Slowpokin. The Pas de deux that opened the second act was beautifully performed by (I think) Colette Adae (Claude Gamba) and Andrei Leftov (Boysie Dakobe, another terrific new Trock). Colette Adae Again the grace, skill and athleticism these guys create on stage is amazing. Apart from the fact that Colette looked a bit butch you would never know you weren’t at the Mariinsky.

Andrei LeftovThen we had Go for Barocco, to the music of the Brandenburg Concertos, simply, deftly staged, with its trademark dance that mixes pure classical style with Olympic Road Race Walk. I was delighted to see Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) join us for that one. Ms Dumbchenko exudes sheer elegance until she starts haring it across the stage all guns blazing.

Lariska DumbchenkoAnd of course, the Dying Swan. I wish I knew how they position those loose feathers in the costume so that they continue to fall out at a constant pace. It never fails to delight, and Ms Thickenthighya executed her beautifully.

Of all the dance companies I can bring to mind, this is the one that most constantly achieves balletic excellence. The pointe work is amazing. Sometimes you just find yourself staring at their feet in awe and ignoring the comedy. Their leaps are stunning. That move they do, sorry I don’t know the technical name, when they spin round several times whilst kicking their legs out and in at the same place on each spin is extraordinary. Olga SupphozovaAnd no one can do that like Ms Supphozova as she showed us in the final act, Raymonda’s Wedding. It’s a joyous piece that brings the whole company together, blending the finest dance with top physical comedy. Katerina Bychkova The coupling of the extremely tall Katerina Bychkova with the extremely short Andrei Leftov is pure genius. And of course it leads us to their finale, which always brings whoops from the audience.

As you can tell, we loved it. Their UK tour lasts another three or so weeks, so see if you can get tickets for High Wycombe, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Edinburgh or Salford. And we even got a signed poster too for £10. Bargain!