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Ballets Trockadero Makes Its Honolulu Debut

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

by Carol Egan

January 23, 2004 -- Hawaii Theatre, Honolulu

Despite the fact that Hawaii is a very dance-friendly state -- with a hula halau on practically every corner and numerous local ballet schools, as well as modern dance groups and diverse Pacific Rim and Asian dance organizations abounding -- the all male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo company, unknown to many island residents, visited the islands for the first time in January. Their mini-tour took them to Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii) before its final appearances January 23 and 24 in Honolulu.

As is the case with many mainstream (mostly mainland) dance companies which visit this fair state, the group was presented by a consortium of three major presenters: Ballet Hawaii in Honolulu, The Maui Arts and Culture Center, and the Kahilu Theatre on the Big Island. Local sponsor, Ballet Hawaii, in addition to its other activities as a school with an affiliated company, is responsible for bringing two major companies to Honolulu each season. In October it presented the Mark Morris Dance Company at the nearly 2200-seat Blaisdell Concert Hall, followed in January by the Trocks at the considerably smaller (1400-seat) Hawaii Theatre. Its own splendid production of "The Nutcracker" is produced annually at the Blaisdell.

Although the Trocks' name may not have tipped off the local audience to the nature of the work (someone I spoke to thought they were from France), a few strategically placed ads and articles put theatre-goers on alert, resulting in two sold-out performances at the lovely old Hawaii Theatre located in the heart of Honolulu's Chinatown. The event proved once more that there is a real interest in dance here. It also reinforced the fact that local audiences perhaps want to be entertained more than enlightened.

'Tis a pity, for the real wit in a piece like Peter Anastos' brilliant "Go for Barocco" is in the parody of numerous Balanchine works. Based very loosely on "Concerto Barocco," one recognizes many Balanchine-isms such as thread-the-needle interweaving patterns, bridges, hip thrusts and high battements. The numerous references to "Apollo," "Serenade," and other Balanchine works bring even deeper enjoyment to those who can identify them, or so I would assume. But lack of background didn't seem to diminish the audience's enjoyment in the least. One wonders how many of those present have ever actually seen a "Swan Lake," "Dying Swan," or "Paquita" before, not to mention "Tarantella" or "Concert Barocco."

"In accordance with Russian ballet tradition," declared an introductory P.A. announcement in a mock Russian accent, "we are obliged to announce several changes in tonight's program." With the assurance that the dancers "seemed to be in a good mood tonight," the curtain went up on Act II of "Swan Lake." One wondered if that fourth Little Swan would ever get it together, or remain forever out-of-sync with her cygnet companions. And the long diagonal cross Prince Siegfried made, executing nothing more elaborate than a series of battements tendus in silence, reminded us of the many aristocratic poses, if not vapid moments, in classical ballet.

Though the dancers clearly know and love the source material, they manage to throw in just the right amount of misplaced head or arm movements, extra shimmies, occasional pratfalls, and other dance jokes, to keep us wanting more. Timing is everything, and these boys have it down to a fine art.

Principal roles in "Swan Lake" were danced by Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) as Odette, Pavel Tord (Bernd Burgmaier) as Siegfried, Igor Slowpokin (Manolo Molina) as Benno, and Velour Pilleaux (Paul Ghiselin) as von Rothbart. With double bios in the program -- one under the delicious Russianized pseudonym and one in the real name -- and each dancer performing both a male and female role -- though not simultaneously -- identification becomes a bit of an obstacle. Fortunately the repertory depends less on its "stars" and more on the comedic content.

This New York-based troupe has attracted dancers from Europe, South America, the Philippines and Japan. Though all have trained in ballet and performed with many companies previously, their sizes and shapes are as varied as their accents. Most do not fit the common image of danseur noble but, thanks to their technical prowess enhanced by great comic skills, they have found a unique niche within the world of ballet. One can overlook the hairy chests and underarms, the not-quite-straight knees, and the lack of beautiful feet and simply delight in the tongue-in-cheek, yet affectionate, versions of some of the repertory’s best-loved works.

Although each member of the group contributes special talents, outstanding among the performers of the evening were Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) and Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin). The former showed gracious lines and extraordinary balance and alignment, particularly in the multiple pirouettes and fouettés in "Paquita." The latter was a grisly, lanky, and molting "Dying Swan," wringing the last bit of blood out of the old bird. When Supphozova ended a virtuosic series of pirouettes with a double tour en l'air, ending on the knee, we realized these dancers can have it both ways -- mastering the most striking feats from both the male and female syllabus.

The audience welcomed the company with a standing ovation which was generously rewarded by a brief encore journeying into the "Lord of the Dance" world, complete with rigid unison step dancing and a final salute in a deep lunge, à la Michael Flatley.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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