Peacock Theatre, London
September 6, 2022
The boys are back in town! Some of the jokes might be old and we might have seen them a dozen times, but their en travesti brand of ballet humour, poking affectionate, gentle fun at traditions and stereotypes, still makes for an amusing, enjoyable evening, here of works loosely linked by a theme of night-time.
Of most interest in the first of two London programmes is Nightcrawlers by Peter Anastos, which can be seen as a follow-up to his 1976 success, Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet, albeit one a long time coming. Like that earlier work, it’s a witty parody of Jerome Robbins’, in this case specifically his In The Night. As with Robbins’ ballet, it spotlights three couples and their relationship issues. But whereas Yes, Virginia… is sunny and unrestrained, Nightcrawlers is rather more introspective.
All ball gowns and tuxedos, it’s also a ballet that flips between being an exaggeration of Robbins or simply a vehicle of the usual Trocks jokes including the women lifting the men or being dragged across the floor, arms getting completely entangled and so on. It’s at its best as the former, although knowledge of In The Night is probably essential if the jokes are really going to make sense. A suggestion that the men, especially Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) and Nicolas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie), actually prefer each other to their female partners also works well.
The programme opens with more moonlight, this time on the lakeside of Act II of Swan Lake. It may be a Trocks staple, but it still works its magic, not least because the Queen of the Swans, aka Odette, Vavara Laptopova (Takaomi Yoshino) is a pretty good ballerina with great turns and crisp, neat batterie. Legupski makes for a tall, princely, over-the-top Siegfried. There are times when the couple really do make it work as Swan Lake, at least until the next joke. Tino Xirau-Lopez (Alejandro Gonzalez) was perfect as the well-intentioned but hapless Benno, forever being shooed away and who even gets himself beaten up by a couple of swans. And look out for the brilliant cygnets, whose dance somehow morphs into a can-can at one point.
There’s more Swan Lake in the pas de trois that usually comes in the middle of Act I as part of Prince Siegfried’s birthday celebrations. The joke here is that Helen Highwaters (Duane Gosa) and Eugenia Repelski (Joshua Thake) tower about the unfortunate Timur Legupski (Jake Speakman), who barely comes up to their chests when they are on pointe.
I often think it’s way past time The Dying Swan was put out of its misery once and for all. It’s become a pastiche of itself. And then along comes Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter). As he bourrées beautifully, arms fluttering softly, feathers falling from his tutu as his stunning creature hangs on to the last drops of life, it manages to be simultaneously funny and very sad. No mean feat.
But the best comes last. Valpurgeyeva Noch (Walpurgisnacht) is a send up of Leonid Lavrosky’s 1941 ballet set to the divertissement from Gounod’s opera Faust. Not that it needs much sending up. The original is pretty camp and kitsch anyway.
The origins of Walpurgisnacht date back to pagan celebrations of fertility rites and the coming of spring. Once associated with witchcraft, it has become a light-hearted celebration with plenty of dressing up, fireworks and dancing; which is sort of where the Trocks come in.
Like Lavrovsky’s Bolshoi version, there are depictions of Gods, plenty of prancing, playful fauns, and doe-eyed nymphs who do a lot of running around with chiffon scarves. A special mention here for Marina Plezegetovstageskaya (Maxfield Haynes) for the warmest smile seen on stage in ages. Jacques d’Aniels posed beautifully as the slightly effeminate, golden-haired Bacchus. As the priestess Bacchante, Ugo Cirri was full of over the top glam and self-assurance. The star turn was Boris Dumbkopf (Takaomi Yoshino) as Pan, however, who leapt and turned with brilliant lightness, pulling out all the stops with bravura moment after bravura moment. As it sounds, it’s perfect Trocks material that just gets better and better as it comes to a crescendo that fizzes with energy and movement.
And then, as an encore, the ensemble treated everyone to a rousing, clap-along rendition of ‘New York, New York’.
Ballet sometimes takes itself a touch too seriously. Puncturing that, pointing out its absurdities and its ridiculous side every now and again is no bad thing. The Trocks do a great job of doing just that while still showing a deep love for the art form, giving everyone a good time along the way.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are at the Peacock Theatre, London with Programme A until September 10, 2022; then Programme B from September 12-17. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for tickets and details.
The company then heads off on a UK tour. Visit danceconsortium.com for dates, venues and booking links.