Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Quad Bill plus some stray feathers
Winter Garden Theatre, Toronto
February 10, 2011
(Note, a flurry of casting changes were rattled off in a suitably thick fake Russian accent just prior to the curtain. Your nearly frozen correspondent was not thawed enough to reach for a pen in time, but will endeavor to find out the changes and update this review as info becomes available. Apologies to any of the fine divas/danseurs who might not get the appropriate credit!)
The Trocks have hit Toronto … and what a collision! Though the persons responsible for booking the Trocks in Toronto for the same dates as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet deserved 10 lashes with a Trock-sized pointe shoe, the Trocks managed to draw in a appreciative and enthusiastic crowd to the cozy Winter Garden Theatre. The quadruple bill of Swan Lake Act III, Patterns in Space, Le Grand Pas de Quatre and Raymonda’s Wedding, plus the ever-popular Dying Swan showcased the best of the Trocks’ impressive technique combined with their humorous pokes, jabs (and outright impalements) at ballet. It was, as is always with the Trocks, the perfect antidote to all that ails in the current world of ballet.
Anyone who has traveled the ballet world knows that it’s littered with the carcasses of Swan Lake productions that range from just passable to truly horrific. Among the more unfortunate Swan Lake memories are a first scene gang rape, swamp-thing Von Rothbart getting his claws stuck on Siegfried’s tunic, Tchaikovsky at dirge pace and a scrim curtain stuck at half mast. So it’s with absolute relief that one devours the Trocks totally tongue in cheek skewering of the classic. Olga Supphozova is an old hat at this role, and conveys a novel’s worth with a bat of her fake eyelashes and roll of her eyes. Yet, under that make-up Robert Carter is fine technician, able to whip off a series of powerful fouettes and float delicately (well, as delicately as one with NBA sized pointe shoes) across the stage. Boris Nowitsky (Christopher Lam) and Pepe Dufka (Raffaele Mora) held up their part of the bargain – and Supphozova – as Benno and Von Rothbart. However it was Ashley Romanoff-Titwillow (Joshua Grant) in the role of the swan-adoring Prince Siegfried who was most impressive. Prior to donning his Trocks, Grant polished his classical technique both at the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and his years of experience showed in his refined line and solid bravura. Despite the tiny Winter Garden stage, he tossed off a gorgeous ménage with beautifully stretched jetes, and partnered the none too tiny Supphozova with nary a bobble. Brava (bravo?)!
Heading off into more modern realms, the company took on Merce Cunningham and the music of John Cage in “Patterns in Space”. Many a dance-goer, I’m sure, has raised an eyebrow or two at what sometimes passes as music. There’s experimental and then there’s “what the heck?! My ears…my poor ears”. In “Patterns in Space”, neither the music nor the dance get any mercy. Larissa Dumbchenko (Raffaeke Mora) and Yuri Smirnov (Robert Carter) serve as the onstage musicians, complimenting Andrew Franck’s taped score with a smorgasboard of homemade noisemakers. The cacophony starts with a wood block and tinker toy marimba, and goes through everything from candy wrappers to hairspray to moos and clucks. It puts the low brow into what we’re often force fed as high-brow. Despite the musical romp on stage, the three dancers forge onwards in a distinctly Cunningham-esque style. Though the musical comedy duo often distracted from the dance, it’s worth noting the very fine performance of Dimitri Legupski (Claude Gamba). Gamba looked at home with the flexed foot modern style and stood out for the control and stretch in his movement.
Les Grand Pas de Quatre, set to music by Cesare Pugni, is a battle of four ballet-diva egos that is equal part expressive and humorous. It’s a battle of the bows that makes even the most diva-esque of the Russians look downright meek. Yet, in the true Trock style, there’s a dose of dang good dancing between and mixed into the comedy. (This piece was a particular victim of the cast change bug, so I fear that individual performances cannot be credited at this point, other than I believe Sveltlana Lofatkina as a totally delightful passive aggressive Marie Taglioni. Never before has a fake-lashed glare been so powerful!) Of note was the tall, blond ballerina who performed a stunning slow motion lunge to split that would make most ballerinas drool.
As a special treat, Larissa Dumbchenko returned to grace us with a stage full of swan feathers in the ego fluffing – or rather defluffing - that is the Dying Swan. No Trocks show would be complete without this feather overload, and Dumbchenko does it to full delight. Kudos to the Trocks costume designers for figuring out the secret recipe to create a tutu that sheds feathers at just the right pace!
The evening ended with a well deserved skewering of “Raymonda’ Wedding”. Glauzunov’s music just screams “choreograph to me”, but Petipa’s 3 Act Ballet has everything but a plot. The Trocks’ fabulous program writer refers to it as “traditionally confusing”, but it’s a ballet that not even the likes of ABT’s Marcello Gomes and David Hallberg can save from snooze ville. So it’s a perfect target for the Trocks witty pointe shoes; and their excerpt kicks the original far off the map.
Ida Nevasayneva is a statuesque White Lady (don’t ask who she is and I won’t try to confuse you), and almost the entire company fills out the top-notch cast. Of all the ballets, this final piece best reveals the superb classical technique that underpins the Trocks humour. The fabulous acting, pratfalls, facial expressions and choreographic alterations that make the Trocks would not be possible if the underlying dancing was not rock solid. And there’s no doubt, that with a cast of dancers who have for the most part been with the company for years, that these men/divas/ladies can dance their pants/tutus off and then some. Again, there were casting changes, but I believe we saw Canada’s own Brock Hayoe as a youthful, brash Jean de Brienne. Whomever donned the shoes of Raymonda was most impressive, switching from frisky to romantic to delicate and back, all with technique to burn. Another unknown ballerina stood out for a totally kick ass series of beats, and I believe it Joshua Grant as Katerina Bychkova who distinguished herself with beautifully full rotated double tours.
Mike Gonzalez and Ken Busbin were responsible for the costumes galore, Tricia Toliver and Kip Marsh for the lighting, and Jason Courson and mysterious chas b, slackman for the decor.
(P.S. Many a company including the NBoC, should hire the Trock's program writer(s). This fabulous person(s) manages to explain character relationships in a few quick words, making the pages long summaries of ballets that one must wade through at most companies superfluous. )