Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO TO THE KENNEDY CENTER at Kennedy Center Opera House

On stage through Saturday, April 6

By: Apr. 06, 2024
Review: LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO TO THE KENNEDY CENTER at Kennedy Center Opera House
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Thursday’s return of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo to the Kennedy Center brought a full house and lots of laughs to the DMV. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Trocks performed a classical program featuring pointe work, speed, ballon and their signature comedic flair. 

The Trocks, as the troupe is affectionately known, delight in the classical ballet canon, with a penchant for the great story ballets such as Swan Lake. Each dancer chooses a campy stage persona that riffs on tropes of divas, ballet history and geopolitics and whose name is a pun best said out loud. For purposes of highlighting specific dancers, I have used their stage names, and readers may find their given names in the evening’s program.

Thursday’s highlight was the first work on the program, Act II of Swan Lake, with choreography inspired by Ivanov’s original steps. The Swan Queen’s (Colette Adae) solo in particular was outstanding; her powerful turns and presence commanded attention. Araf Legupski as Prince Siegfried was less stately but demonstrated strong partnering skills. 

The company’s choreography works on multiple levels. Broad and often physical humor get you first and is a throughline. There’s also lots of “inside baseball” for ballet, if you know what you’re looking for. For example, the second piece on the program Peter AnastosGo for Barocco is an homage to Balanchine, complete with Serenade’s alligator arms and Apollo’s winding bodies. They are funny first for how they look and second for what they reference. 

Some of the humor derives from intentionally bad dancing: a flexed foot or bent leg in a sea of perfection or dancer running in the wrong direction. These gags were popular with the audience but grew repetitive as the night went on. They are also funnier when the dancing is otherwise flawless. Unfortunately, the company includes a number of newer dancers who are still building their pointe technique; during petit allegro ensemble passages many feet never fully extended off the floor, creating a leadened quality. 

Still, the Trocks as a company are impressive actors, which is unusual among dancers. The pantomime in Paquita and Swan Lake were crystal clear; I can’t always say the same for ABT. This ability to communicate through gesture is rare. Moreso, the ability to pack the opera house - with a diverse crowd, no less - for an evening of classical ballet and make everyone laugh is impressive. With any luck these audiences will return again and again, lovers of the classical tradition but still able to poke fun at it. 

Running time: ~2 hours

Photo credit: Zoran Jelenic




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