REVIEW: Les Ballets de Trockadero Entertained Tampa’s Audience with their Classics

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughan

After announcing their only tour date to Tampa, Les Ballets de Trockedero (or “The Trocks,” as effectively known) were received by a packed audience who patiently waited for several months until this Friday night. The theatre filled up quickly.

Tampa is a city that welcomes classical ballet when presented at their biggest performing arts centre, the Straz, and their beloved area of Ybor City has several drag queen bars and clubs. Naturally, Tampanians were in fact excited for The Trocks’ visit as it was very evident with their whispers and full attendance to the performance.

The evening started with an introduction speech by one of the dancers, updating the changes in the program. With a great imitation of a Russian accent, he proceeded to say how some dancers (the company’s certain characters) were going to be replaced due to mishaps and “drinking nights,” also mentioning that the costume designer for one of the pieces was “Cocoa Chaneloskova.” I was delighted to know that their famous Dying Swan piece was also in the program ahead. With this introduction, I already got into a good laughing mood as so was the audience around me.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughan
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughan

Yuri Smirnov (Robert Carter), Stanislas Kokitch (Alberto Pretto), and Vladimir Legupski (Duane Gosa) interpreted Van Rothbart, Benno (Siegfried’s friend) and Siegfried, respectively during their opening piece: the second act Swan Lake. I was surprised that even the dancers that interpret men were also wearing wigs. Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) interpreted Odette, and he maintained a funny, delicate character. As for the corps de ballet, the eight swans demonstrated different personalities. They added modern dance steps like “the Flossing” during the waltz, imitated swan’s real bird movements, and sometimes went out of the corp de ballet lines. Gosa and Hopuy presented great partnering abilities during the pas de deux, and Hopuy seemed to never stop impressing us with his great pointe technique, strength, and agility as the principal woman.

Their Swan Lake presented Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music and seen something different, fresh, and modern humour. The choreography was no far different from Petipa and Levanov’s version (as were all the classical pieces presented in the program), however, expressions were indeed exaggerated, and the steps sometimes overdone. This is what The Trocks emphasize for their audiences to have a good time, and they always succeed.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughan
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughan

The second Tchaikovsky piece presented the iconic Sleeping Beauty wedding pas de deux. Jacques d’Aniels (Joshua Thake) as the Prince and Collette Adae (Christopher Ouellette) as Aurora posed as they presented themselves with white faces (extravagant makeup) and elegant wigs. The pas de deux followed Petipa’s original choreography, with few funny moments. However, the Prince at times seemed rather too in love with her princess while making sure that the audience knew about how handsome he is. Mr Ouellette presented strong technique and was infinitely as delicate as Princess Aurora.

I was expecting the Dying Swan piece, as I had seen its excerpts many times on the internet. Helen Highwaters (Duane Gosa) carefully travelled along the stage with the iconic feathered tutu, which is, in fact, collapsing, leaving feathers all over the stage. The Dying Swan is rather a melancholic solo, but The Trocks’ version shares a desperate and fun interpretation. Mr Gosa interacted with the audience, showing how in the world the delicate swan was missing so many feathers, moments of shock and “almost” dying, and tears. In the original version, the swan dies peacefully. However, Mr Gosa died unexpectedly, making all of us in the audience laugh at the comic death. His bows were cheerful, encouraging the audience to clap more and more until it was “the perfect ovation.”

Les Ballets Trockadero – Dying Swan

Nightcrawlers is a parody of all those piano ballets, specifically those similar to Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. The three couples were telling different stories and relationships, and exaggerated partnering moves as well as their characters’ personalities. The men characters, (Nicholas Khachafallenjar, Boris Mudko, and William Vanilla [Haojun Xie, Giovanni Ravelo, and Noah Herron respectively]) were shorter than their women partners (Nina Immobilashvili, Elvira Khababgallina, and Sonia Leftova [Alberto Pretto, Kevin Garcia, and Boysie Dikobe respectively)], which already gave a comic look to the ballet.

They were dresses with elegant nightdresses and jackets, and surprisingly the men were not wearing wigs. The different pas de deux and pas de trois played with the character’s relationships, showing regrets, love, fights, and even desperation. Almost at the end, with one of Chopin’s fast nocturnes, the dancers desperately ran all over the stage, like if scared of something of as if being chased, sometimes screaming sometimes gasping. After the run, the ballet finished rather calmly, butt imitating Robbins’ final of Dances at a Gathering: romantic, yet with a joyful vibe.

The evening closed with a unique celebration if Raymonda’s wedding, which included a wedding cake, happy bridesmaids and an impressive principal dancer. The corps de ballet and the bridesmaids demonstrated bigger character steps than what you see in the original ballet, already giving a comic look to the lines of the divertissement. The Trocks did not alterate the original choreography much, however, they gave the ballet an iconic look that made all of us gasp, laugh, and feeling as if we were wedding guests as well.

Nina Enimenimyynimova (Long Zou) received many applauses during his performance. The Raymonda was strong, determined, and wanted to take over the world. Zou’s technique was impressive, from his strength on pointe to flexibility, and turns. Both Raymonda and the bridesmaids’ variations were accurate in choreography, but the character movements that represent the Hungarian style ballet were, as mentioned before, bigger and brighter.

Les Ballets de Trockadero in Raymonda’s Wedding

The Trocks finished with a playful coda, repeating movements that always seemed to entertain the audience the most. After their bows, the curtain opens once more to show the dancers in sombreros dancing to a Mexican song, receiving a standing ovation and cheerful whistles. Sometimes, the dancers at Les Ballets de Trockadero do not bother to pointe their feet, however, the all men company’s goal is to make parodies of the most beloved classical ballets and make their audiences have a wonderful time. Tampa and I definitely had a unique, wonderful time at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts that night.

Reviewed at the Straz  on 5th of April