When Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo first began performing during the middle 1970s, it was something extraordinary—even shocking to some people—to watch men wearing tutus and toe shoes gracefully render comical versions of classical ballets.
Some 40 years later, performances by drag artistes scarcely raise an eyebrow. Nowadays, the Trocks, as the all-male troupe is fondly known, continue to snare laughter and applause through the sheer smarts of their clowning and the remarkable technical skill of their dancing.
The fun begins even before the show starts as one pages through the playbill for the Trocks’ current holiday engagement at the Joyce Theater. The punning monikers and wacky bios of troupers such as Helen Highwaters and Mikhail Mypansarov, provide a preview of what’s to come once the curtain rises.
The Trocks, in typically top-notch form, are presenting two different programs at the Joyce.
Tuesday’s opening bill began with the Trocks’ celebrated send-up of the ever-romantic Swan Lake, Act II. A surprising amount of this gossamer ballet is charmingly performed with lyrical exactitude, against which some occasional missteps, fumbled cues, and personal gaffes register as all that more amusing. Although these gauzy goings-on grow increasingly dizzy with overenthusiastic individual turns, the comical proceedings never devolve into slapstick. Nina Enimenimynimova (Long Zou), a powerful yet exceptionally lithe dancer, is especially lovely in every respect as the Queen of the Swans.
The Paquita Pas De Trois presents a wicked mid-1800s spin for two very tall ballerinas who shamelessly take advantage of one considerably shorter leading man. La Trovatiara Pas De Cinq, danced to a thumping Verdi musical mash-up, is an athletic divertissement featuring swordplay and several piratical maidens who become more than a little competitive with one another.
The busy scenario of the underwater scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse is impossible to describe except to mention that it is a Russian-style hubbub involving star fish, gold fish (what, no sturgeon?), and other sea denizens. Their colorful costumes are designed with considerable wit by Kenneth Busbin, who cutely dresses the ensemble as if they were the spawn of an octopus and a Portuguese man o war.
Then there is the Dying Swan sequence, a brief though hilarious interlude, wonderfully danced by Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter), whose bulky linebacker physicality drolly contrasts with the fluttering grace of his tremulous interpretation, even as his feathery costume ceaselessly molts away.
For a cheerful encore, the troupe salutes the holidays in a Rockettes-type song-and-dance turn, all pinwheels and high kicks, while Johnny Mathis warbles “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”
The second program will feature Chopeniana, a fantasia inspired by Frederic Chopin’s music, as well as Stars & Stripes Forever, a red, white, and blue spectacle driven by oompah tunes by John Philip Sousa and choreography by Robert La Fosse. Sure sounds like something tutu funny to me.