BWW Review: Les Ballets Tockadero de Monte Carlo Overture Center
Watching people filter into the Overture Center before Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, my first thought was, "There really are families with children here!" Listening to the pre-show crowd, I was surprised to find an interesting mix of people thinking either they were going to the ballet, or they were about to witness some sort of drag burlesque show. That being said, at 30 minutes to show time the audience appeared to be dis-hearteningly small. I later learned that dance shows once brought fourteen to fifteen hundred people, but now drew only about a thousand or so.
This was my first exposure to the ballet, and what a simply marvelous introduction it was. From the moment the pre-show announcements informed us that, "In the tradition of the Russian Ballet, there would be some changes" followed by a string of impossible ballerina names and audience laughs, I knew that I was in good hands for my maiden voyage.
The humor put me at ease, and it was a fantastic instrument, allowing the audience a more shared experience. We laughed, snorted, and guffawed together. The Dance Company then used this vehicle to lead this neophyte through the beautiful subtleties of the ballet in the most loving way.
During the first two acts, the humor played out in a variety of ways, like a dancer slowly dancing his way across the stage sans music (with a nearly constant look of "Where's my music?" on his face) or the molting swan from Swan Lake, to the spot light slowly sweeping the stage in search of a missing dancer. There was a wonderfully subtle piece in which the lead ballerina missed her mark in the lineup and the three ballerinas behind her had to shuffle left to fix the line. I did notice almost immediately that although they do put the "BALL" in BALLET, I and those around me had begun to refer to the men in tutus as "ballerinas".
The humor did nothing to detract from the amazing athletic prowess or beauty of the dance. Each move on stage was purposeful, calculated and precise. Most impressive was how the company made these moves look so easy. Not that even I am naïve enough to believe that, however I do appreciate the pure athleticism it took to pull the illusion off.
By the third act the show became mainly about the dance. Not that there was not the occasional ballerina on stage eating random fruit, but this section showed the intimacy of the ballet. By this act, I was totally engaged in witnessing the story unfold through dance. It was in this, the final act of the show, that I "got it". I better understood how one can tell a story through music and movement. It was here I recognized the beauty and emotional entanglement of the tale unfolding before me through the bodies of the dancers, enhanced by the lighting and of course, music. It was here that I began to feel the show on an emotional level.
During the third act the company also revved up the crowd participation. We clapped along with Hava Nagila, matching the tempo of the song, encouraging the dance. The song, audience, and dancers accelerated into a climactic frenzy. After we were all spent, the audience, being few yet mighty, gave these gifted performers not one but TWO standing ovations!
For some it was merely a superb night of entertainment, but for me it signified my first taste into the world of dance and connected me on an emotional level with the dancers on stage along with the stories.
Yes, this was one night only. Yes, sadly you've already missed this show. Still, when this great troupe returns, join us in the audience and perhaps you too will enjoy taking part in the dance.
Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and five galleries where national and international touring artists, ten resident companies, and hundreds of local artists engage nearly half a million people in educational and artistic experiences each year. Overture.org