As a season subscriber to The Kennedy Center's Ballet Series for many years, I looked forward with a light heart and a smile to the beginning of my dance season this season. Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo, part of the contemporary dance series, but available as an add-on for the ballet series, has never in its 36 year history performed at The Kennedy Center. The shame of this was rectified in two performances held in the Eisenhower Theater October 6 and 7, 2010.
Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 as an en travesti, fun parody company loving skewering the traditions of classical ballet. Yet, do not dismiss this as a version of Saturday Night Live's Bad Ballet sketch. The Trocks are all accomplished ballet dancers with very impressive credits in some of the world's best known ballet companies. What is even more impressive is that all of the Trocks have had to learn not only the well known "cavalier/prince" roles of a principal male dancer, they have also learnt the prima ballerina, soloist and corps de ballet of the women's roles - en pointe.
The tone of the evening was set as the audience settled into their seats. All around this reviewer could hear quiet laughter as fellow patrons sounded out the Russian names of the dancers. A heavily accented announcer gave the curtain speech, reminded the audience that if they didn't turn off their cell phones, the Trocks would do it for them. Also announced was which pas de deux the Trocks decided to add, which was the grand pas de deux from Le Corsair. And, to our delight, an additional piece, the famous Dying Swan would be executed that night.
The Trocks began with what has become their signature piece, Le Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II). If you have seen Swan Lake, you know all of the sections of this famously excerpted sequence. But, you haven't quite seen Swan Lake like this. Every element of the 19th century grand ballet tradition is lovingly skewered, from the balletic mime language taken to the extreme, to the types of rare accidents which can occur when the soloists who form the quartet of cygnets dance so close to one another and in "perfect" unison.
It is delightful that part of the fun is that each member of the company has a distinctive character and as some of the dancers are repeated throughout the evening, you can smile as a certain personality puts her stamp on the dance.
You will have ample opportunity to cheer the athletic skills of the Trocks. In the bravura dancing of Le Corsair and Paquita, it is the rare audience who would not be brought to their feet by the leaps and precision turns of the dancers. And, even the more modern styles get their attention as the Trocks brilliantly parody the Balanchine method down to the geometric contortions and the insistence on wearing rehearsal clothes to reveal and revel in pure dance.
Lastly, the addition of the dying swan was a joyful delight. This swan clearly had a molting disease, and anyone who can dance with that many feathers upon the stage is skilled indeed.
Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo appeared at the Eisenhower Theater in Washington DC's The Kennedy Center October 6-7, 2010. For information on upcoming performances visit www.trockadero.org.