Drag Ballet Troupe Treat Toronto With “Particular Pleasures”
Few things are as delightful as accomplished, stylish drag performance, and in an uncertain world, it’s a considerable relief that we can still count on Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo to deliver a flawless, high tone, high-test performance every time. With a well-established repertoire of ballet classics, the venerable all-male comic ballet troupe remains in excellent form.
Dancing with mildly punny and slightly lewd-or-rude faux-Russian names, and incorporating considerable comedy into their performance, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (or The Trocks, as they’re fondly known) have carved a niche for themselves in the ballet world much as the Harlem Glodetrotters have established themselves in basketball – equal parts “everything is hilarious,” and “holy wow have these performers got skills.”
Their renditions reliably include some classic bits – a small or slight boy tries to lift a much taller girl and cannot complete what he committed to; someone is perfectly one beat off (this is so much harder than it looks to accomplish, by the way); backstage drama (faux, I’m sure) is felt onstage as dancers subtly jockey for position, and so on. They’re all similar in the way of physical comedy – easy to enjoy, difficult to accomplish.
The particular pleasures of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, for me, have always been how interestingly the works are a combination of faithful execution of classic ballets with perfectly-timed shenanigans throughout. It feels, somehow, as though they were always under there; as though it just required a deeper understanding of the work to bring out the funny. Artistic Director Tory Dobrin balances all the elements – spectacle, artistic rigor, and antics – just right.
Toronto audiences were treated to an additional surprise “uninvited guest,” in Trocks parlance: local heroine Brooke Lynn Hytes, herself a performer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo from 2008-2012, performed The Dying Swan with great verve.
To be fair, I am a great fan of updating, amending, and just plain playing around with classics when its done well (and this definitely is). I am aware that, for some, anything other than exact and faithful replication of the original-as-intended is tantamount to heresy, and as with Groundling’s recent superlative Caesar, I cordially invite those people to stay home and listen to their Lawrence Welk albums. For the rest of us, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are both an absolute hoot and a real treat.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo played at the Winter Garden Theatre, 7&8 March 2020
photo provided by the company