Arts & Life

The Trocks offer comedic relief at the ballet

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male ballet company, returned to Long Beach on Saturday, Feb. 3, for their eighth performance at the Carpenter Center. Celebrating 50 years on stage, The Trocks, as they are affectionately known, have come to epitomize comedy at the ballet with their gender-twisting shenanigans.

The company was originally founded in 1974 following the Stonewall Riots in New York City and since then has toured all around the world. The male dancers perform a repertoire of deliciously hilarious renditions of both classical and modern ballets.

Feathers dramatically fall from the swan during "The Dying Swan" to represent the mortality of life.
Feathers dramatically fall from the swan during "The Dying Swan" to represent the mortality of life. Photo credit: Zoran Jelenic

Through exaggerated movements, purposeful accidents, animated facial expressions and whimsical wordless jest the muscular, athletic bodies of the dancers break through the seriousness of traditional ballet performances.

As the lights dimmed and the curtains rose, a cheeky monologue introduced the company amid heavy laughter from the crowd. The Trocks then graced the stage with drag-inspired makeup and chiseled physiques stuffed into delicate ballerina garb as laughter continued to echo throughout the venue.

The performance was split into four acts, beginning with “Swan Lake,” one of the most famous and recognizable ballets of all time. As the swans flocked the stage on pointe, the dancers dramatically fell from exhaustion and play-fought with one another, garnering boisterous laughs.

“Watching these talented dancers defy stereotypes with humor and finesse was just awesome. This is the kind of performance that can make young people excited about the ballet, and I’m just so glad that I came tonight. I needed a good laugh,” attendee April White said.

Yet, the tongue-in-cheek physical humor is only part of what makes The Trocks so delightfully entertaining. As the men gallivant on stage performing traditionally feminine ballet techniques, like dancing on pointe and pirouetting, the irony of gender norms becomes glaringly obvious.

During a rendition of “The Dying Swan,” a solo performance originally choreographed for Anna Pavlova, The Trocks offered their own interpretation of the dance. Robert Carter’s performance of “The Dying Swan” showcased eloquent lines and ballerina finesse, coupled with diva-like antics that elicited robust laughter and applause.

“His performance was definitely my favorite,” Sabrina Wilson said.

“I loved the faces he was making and the way he seemed to interact with the crowd. You could tell that he was really enjoying being on stage.”

The precision with which the company performs is only ever broken for staged instances of comedic relief, poking fun at the physically grueling and often serious nature of ballet.

The troupe also reinterpreted “Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet,” a modern dance that aims to humanize the stuffy notions of classical ballet. The performance seemed to almost be a nod to the sentiment The Trocks hope to bring to the stage, by making ballets more relatable and perhaps more entertaining by removing the pretentiousness of the art form.

The dancers concluded their Saturday evening performance with a depiction of “Paquita,” a story about Roma people, power and love. The Trocks’ rendition of this classic ballet was complete with misplaced feet and awkward encounters between the protagonists that left attendees with fond memories of the performance.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo reimagine "Paquita."
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo reimagine "Paquita." Photo credit: Zoran Jelenic

“I brought my daughter tonight and we both had such a good time. If they ever come back to perform I would love to see them again,” Cheryl Miller said.

For all upcoming performances at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, please visit their website.

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