Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Cal Performances February 5, 2022
Zellerbach Auditorium UC Berkeley
What a wonderful gift the “Trocs” brought to Berkeley this weekend. The company was able to dispel the “pandemic” gloom, brighten our evening, amaze and amuse us with their superb dancing and not-so-subtle satire.
It is not necessary but it adds to one’s amazement if, as a dance audience, you know or have seen the ‘classic’ ballet repertory; “Swan Lake”, “Divertissement“ by Chopin and any or all of the works by George Balanchine. (The Balanchine work is satirized particularly in ”Go for Barocco,” music by J.S.Bach). The “Trocs” know the movements and group patterns (over, under, around and through) and use the repertory of choreographic clichés to execute and satirize such classics.
Each dancer has chosen his name to inform and amuse the audience. For example “Valse, Op. 70, No. 1” is danced by Maya Thickenthighya; a Mazurza by Dimitri Legupski. Their real names are given, but the stage names offer jests about dancers. Although the choreography is accurate to an original, satire works into the performance by exaggeration and diminution of steps, by the addition of non-dance moves (patty-cake with hands meant only to hold) and sudden complete breaks in the movement phrases.
The dance skill is superb. Satire happens when one can see what’s there … and then what comments on it. For example when three dancers perform the “Pas de Trois” from “Swan Lake” the ‘girls’ are usually partnered in lifts and balances by the man. Here he is inert to the women who must assist him to get in place and attempt any action.This “Pas” was performed by Helen Highwaters (Duane Rosa), Eugenia Repelski (Joshua Thake) and Timor Legupski (Jake Speakman).
The ultimate “take-off” on ballet is “The Dying Swan”, a solo made famous by the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Here, Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) performs the drooping creature, feathers falling and feet failing … a complete foolery.
She (he) recovers to take many curtain calls. We all cheer.
Most amazing on this particular performance evening was the appearance of Joshua Thake who’s stage name is “Eugenia Repelski”. Thake is a small person (I guess about 5 feet) but his technique is extraordinary. He is able to move with great skill and accuracy. Appearing as a faun in “Valpurgyeyva Noch” (Walpurgisnacht) in an elaborate panoramic finale. Thake cuts through all the clever satiric movement to amaze and delight with his finesse, his speed, his execution accuracy and his stage presence.
The highlight of satiric fun happens when he appears with to very tall “ballerinas” in “Pas de Trois”. There the ballerinas lift him: they are at least a foot taller!
This finale work work “Valpurgyeyva Noch” offers many of the fabled elements ballet has championed for centuries: Greek myth (with scarves ala Duncan waving about), Bacchates, Fauns, Nymphs and the company ‘maidens”. If you’ve ever wondered how a ‘corps de ballet’ survives the endless minutes they must stand in place, awaiting the next divertissement,” watch the “Trocs”. They poke, play patty-cake and yawn.
(In contract see the current San Francisco Ballet program “Caprice.” There the ballerinas are still, totally composed, hand and feet ‘just so’).
To bring the audience cheering to their feet, the “Trocs” staged a finale, the end piece of “New York, New York” before a backdrop projection of the city. What crowd pleaser!
PBS recently ran a documentary on Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Until Cal Performances can bring the company back, enjoy that hour of delight. The satire is wide and wild; the dancing is superb.