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Repertory Program B ("Lac des Cygnes, Act II" – "Tarantella" – "Don Quichotte "– "I wanted I Wanted to Dance With You at the Café of Experience" – "L’École de Ballet")
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Joyce Theater
New York, NY
December 28, 2004

by Leigh Witchel
copyright © 2005 by Leigh Witchel

“All of our ballerinas are in very good moods. . .”

So ends the announcement at every performance of the Trocks that begins with every dance reviewer’s nightmare; a litany of substitutions that sends the audience scrambling for their programs. It’s a shtick but it still works, an apt metaphor for the Trocks.

Like the other travesti companies, the Trocks are affectionate parodists. There are people in the audience who wouldn’t be caught dead at Lincoln Center, who love the Trocks for the hairy armpits and the zany humor. There are also those like the very elegant Indian lady in the long fur coat in front of me. “Oh no, I was raised on Fonteyn and Beriosova,” she said happily as she sat back to watch the performance and I happily went back to envying her.

The Trocks version of “Swan Lake, Act II” contains the mime passage where Odette explains the origin of the lake and her enchantment. It’s the real thing . . .well, with a few additions. They also retain Benno, and who does that anymore? Odette was performed by Svetlana Lofatkina (Fernando Medina Gallego). With no offense to Miranda Weese, Ms. Lofatkina reminds one of her sharp stage presence and incisive wit. One of Ms. Lofatkina’s best moments came when Benno, played by the small but puffed-up Igor Slowpokin (Manolo Molina), dropped her yet again. She cast him a withering glance and made a quick sign to indicate that this was mistake number two and he would not likely survive a third.

The best of the travesti ballerinas, Ms. Lofatkina and Janie Sparker of the Grandiva company among them, are wonderful because you can tell in every performance how much they love ballet. When asked about the qualities necessary in a ballerina, Alexandra Danilova first named modesty. A ballerina has to love herself create a persona large enough not to wither onstage, but she has to love ballet even more. In the coda of “Swan Lake”, Ms. Lofatkina came out to do her series of arabesques on the diagonal. What was beautiful about it was not her lines. They were respectable but no matter how skilled men get in pointe work their bodies can’t produce feminine lines, only approximations. What was beautiful was how hard she tried to make those lines beautiful, even in the midst of all the jokes. She wasn’t trying to show us herself; she was trying to show us the ballet. Seeing the Trocks’ “Swan Lake” makes me love the conventional “Swan Lake” more, not less.

The Trocks threw two unannounced pas de deux into the program, making for a long evening. The first was a version of “Tarantella” performed by Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) and William Vanilla (Grant Thomas). There’s a difference between a Drag Queen and a Gender Illusionist. If you ask me, it’s that one has self-humor and the other doesn’t. This was less of a Drag “Tarantella” and more of a Gender Illusion one; I’ve seen wittier performances of the original version by biological females. It may be that it takes time for the jokes to evolve naturally in repeated performance; it may be the style of the individual ballerina. Ms. Supphozova performed with a fierce glint in her eyes; Danilova’s modesty was far from the scene. Although Ms. Supphozova did lift Mr. Vanilla, there were surprisingly few jokes in the performance and more of them were in the man’s part. Mr. Molina and Mr. Gallego exchanged genders in the pas de deux from “Don Quixote”, performing as their alter-egos Fifi Barkova and R.M. “Prince” Myshkin. This has been in the Trock’s repertory long enough for the gags to be woven logically and seamlessly into the usual choreography.

The title of “I Wanted to Dance With You at the Café of Experience” is probably the most memorable joke in the piece. The dance is ostensibly a parody of Pina Bausch, not an easy task. Is putting a man in a dress with garish makeup and a bad wig something that Ms. Bausch wouldn’t do herself? The layers of disquieting gender identity in it are suitably Bauschian. I think she might enjoy seeing men abuse other men dressed as women.

“L’École de Ballet”, by Peter Anastos, meanders through the conventions of the classroom ballet. The libretto is a bit like “Études” mixed with “Konservatoriet” with “Graduation Ball” dropped on top. Mme Repelski (Yonny Manaure) puts her petits rats through their paces at the barre; this culminates in a recital where all her students dutifully sit across the stage in chairs to await their turn to dance. Finally her shyest student, Collete Adae (Jason Hadley) gets rewarded with the big pas de deux with the new boy, Medulli Lobotomov (Ferran Casanova who both as Lobotomov and Alla Snizova has one of the most disquietingly manic grins in ballet). It’s a sweet-natured work, but some of its sweetness lies in its lack of focus. It’s heavy on fuzzy nostalgia and light on plot. A little backstage nastiness, some ground glass in a pointe shoe or a trapdoor left open on purpose might be just the ticket.

Photos by Sascha Vaughn

Volume 3, No. 1
January 3, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by Leigh Witchel


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