This year’s novelty at Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo – a chunk of the super-macho Soviet curiosity Laurencia – woke me up to the whole gamut of male types that this beloved en travesti troupe parades before us in the course of satirising and celebrating the Russian ballet. Whether as ballerinas or princes, the dancers embody a liberating array of personas – tipped, however, towards the outlier, the outcast, the gay man up to 1974, when the all-male troupe burst on to the scene. The trace of history in the characters makes the Trocks unavoidably touching even when the comedy falls flat.
Their prince is less dreamy than zonked. Giovanni Ravelo’s Siegfried is so vague about his royal duties towards this bird Odette (the elegant Roberto Forleo) that she has to nudge him into action. Meanwhile, his faithful steward Benno (dewy-eyed Scott Austin) has been demoted to hapless sidekick. When things heat up between Siegfried and Odette, Benno is summarily dismissed. No pas de trois for him. The sorcerer-pimp Von Rothbart (scenery-chewing Paolo Cervellera) is as much backseat driver as mastermind. When Odette’s doppelgänger Odile (gorgeous Chase Johnsey, who finally lets the slut in the Black Swan out) woos the prince, Cervellera on the sidelines sweats and swoons enough for both of them.
Then there are the doll men – the major, if tiny, models of virtuosity. Newcomers Boysie Dikobe and former Cuban National Ballet dancer Carlos Caballero Hopuy are so springy and lithe, with such perfectly chiselled limbs and impeccably executed steps, that they make everyone else look like beefy butch dykes. My favourite type, though, may be the corps girl. Whatever ballet she finds herself in, this free-to-be spirit jumps higher and leaps farther than a proper girl ever would.
The new treasure in the Trockadero chest does not offer the usual bounty of ballerina parts. Since the virile Vakhtang Chabukiani choreographed and starred in this 1939 ballet about a proto-proletarian revolt in Spain, Laurencia has served as a vehicle for muscle-bound heroics, a type notably absent from the Trock roster. Its introduction could arguably open up whole new vistas of parody, but only if the Trocks are willing to bend Laurencia to their purposes. Currently they are playing it way too straight.
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