Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater

The Trocks triumphant return to NYC Dec 14-Jan 2 is en pointe and poignant as ever!

By: Dec. 17, 2021
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Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater

Rejoice and deck the halls! The Trocks are back in town just in time to celebrate the holidays, break boundaries, and shake up the dance world as they have done since 1974.

To anyone who hasn't enjoyed the unique pleasure of witnessing the iconic dance company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (aka "The Trocks"), there are two things you should know: one, they're very fun, two, they're really good. Another important detail that sets the Trocks apart -- the all-male dance company performs both male and traditionally female classical ballet and modern roles en pointe and en travesti.

But a Trocks performance is not a drag show or a garish parody of "dudes in dresses" (I'm speaking to you, Mrs. Doubtfire on Broadway!). On the contrary, each performer is a highly-skilled dancer capable of performing steps and balletic moves so challenging and complicated that prima ballerinas struggle with. The expression (originally a reference to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire) that the female dancer does everything her male partner does only backward and in heels is flipped with The Trocks. It's gender empowerment of another kind. They are also marvelous actors.

Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Robert Carter as Olga Supphozova in "The Dying Swan." Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.

Each dancer plays multiple characters with hilarious pun names like Helen Highwaters, Varva Laptopova, Minnie van Driver, and Ludmila Beaulemova. Then they perform the role (Prince Siegfried or Odette of Swan Lake, for instance) in the character of a wayward Russian dancer. All of that while executing moves from intricate pas de deux partnering to notoriously difficult grand jeté leaps and fouettes that send them spinning like a dreidel.

The Joyce Theater three-week holiday engagement offers two programs: Program A (through December 19) and Program B (December 21-January 2). Program A features the beloved Swan Lake Act II, the bacchanalian Valpurgeyeva Noch (Walspurghisnacht), and the New York premiere of Nightcrawlers.

Nightcrawlers is a dark, moody piece showcasing three couples in a hot cat-and-mouse pursuit filled with passion, drama, and stunning choreography by founding artistic director Peter Anastos. The dance is a hysterical parody of Jerome Robbins's In the Night set to nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin. It's a sequel and companion piece that follows Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet, another Chopin/Robbins-inspired ballet Anastos choreographed in the 1970s.

Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo), Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia), Maria Clubfoot (Alejandro Gonzalez), Minnie van Driver (Ugo Cirri), Nicholas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie) and Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.

The couples are Minnie van Driver with Boris Mudko (Ugo Cirri and Giovanni Ravelo), Elvira Khababgallina with Nicholas Khatchafallenjar (Kevin Garcia and Haojun Xie) and Maria Clubfoot with Dmitri Legupski (Alejandro Gonzalez and Giovanni Goffredo). The performance is as uproariously funny as it is dazzling to watch, they fling themselves at each other, swap partners, fly through the air, trot like a pony, and are swept across the floor, giving new meaning to the term "nightcrawler."

Nightcrawlers still contains all of the goofy antics and madcap mishaps of any of The Trocks' dances, but there is poetry within the parody, depth beneath the dalliances, and genuine romance and chemistry between the couples. The intensity in their eyes, the fury in which they cling to each other, is a shade deeper than the lighthearted humor of most Trocks pieces (even those portraying tragedies and deaths). It feels appropriate in this era where the desire to grasp onto loved ones is spurred by the fear of losing that privilege. Suddenly the stakes are increased exponentially through such a lens.

Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia) and Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.

All the dancers are marvelous as individuals or in a group, but they shine best in their exemplary partnering. This was most notable in the couples from Nightcrawlers and the Swan Lake Act II. The iconic pas de deux (and a half if you count Tino Xiro-Lopez as the bumbling Benno performed by Alejandro Gonzalez) between Boris Mudko's (Giovanni Ravelo) dashing Siegfried and Nadia Doumiafeyva's (Philip Martin Nielson) exquisite, elegant Odette was absolutely enchanting.

Standout soloists were Takaomi Yoshino as the mischievous faun god Pan in Valpurgeyeva Noch (Walspurghisnacht), whose furious fouettes make one feel punchdrunk, and veteran Trock, the indelible Robert Carter as the ballet class clown, Olga Supphozova.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an extremely international company, with dancers hailing from China, Columbia, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and all across America. No Russians, though, despite the purported origins of most of the characters.

More than anything, The Trocks are hysterically funny, enormously entertaining, and offer something for everyone. Industry insiders will appreciate playful cracks at dance world antics, attitudes, stuffiness, and pretension. Serious ballet aficionados will be impressed by the Trocks' stunning technique. And the person who usually snores through a performance of Swan Lake can't help but be tickled by Olga Supphozova's feather-molting rendition of "The Dying Swan" played by the priceless talent Robert Carter, who's been a Trock for 26 seasons.

Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Robert Carter as Olga Supphozova in "The Dying Swan." Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.

Kids too can enjoy The Trocks. The pieces are engaging and fast-paced enough to hold even the shortest attention span. For families who have seen every possible rendition of The Nutcracker or attended The Rockettes annually, why not shake it up and treat the tots to the wonderful world of The Trocks? And if you are missing The Rockettes vibe, The Trocks, showstopper encore finale, set to "New York, New York" is as good as any kickline you'd see at Radio City Music Hall. There's even a designated family matinee on December 18.

The Trocks' return to the Joyce Theater is an unmissable treat for anyone of any age who appreciates charismatic, talented performers with flawless technique and humor who all possess an underlying depth and spirit that anything is possible.

Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Minnie van Driver (Ugo Cirri) and Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Maria Clubfoot (Alejandro Gonzalez) and Nicholas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Minnie van Driver (Ugo Cirri), Boris Mudko (Giovanni Ravelo) and Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Maria Clubfoot (Alejandro Gonzalez) with Nicholas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie) and Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia) with Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) and Nicholas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO at The Joyce Theater
Dmitri Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) with Elvira Khababgallina (Kevin Garcia) and Maria Clubfoot (Alejandro Gonzalez) with Nicholas Khachafallenjar (Haojun Xie) in Nightcrawlers choreographed by Peter Anastos. Photo by Shin Kurokawa for InJoy Entertainment.


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