Watching dancers Maya Thickenthighya and Irina Kolesterolikova, one can't help but be moved — by their grace and precision, as well as to loud and hearty laughter.
If you're a bit puzzled, take a look at those names again and the gag should become clear: These are not traditional ballerinas. They are part of the marvelously witty 18-member troupe in drag called Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The Trocks perform a tongue-firmly-in-cheek parody of classical ballet that takes that same type of ballet very seriously.
Not surprisingly, the all-male lineup both amused and impressed its audience Sunday night at the Orpheum Theater.
The evening opened with Chopiniana, an abstract piece set to the music of Frederic Chopin that has neither a narrative nor specific characters. It is a “ballet blanc,” often considered the most classical form of ballet, and it is reminiscent of such famous works as Giselle and La Sylphide. Lovely nymphs glide across the stage, delicately enacting mazurkas and waltzes. Marat Legupski (Giovanni Ravelo) is the handsome but dim-witted youth partnered with the oft-exasperated Marina Plezegetovstageskaya (Roberto Forleo). The action in the background as ballerinas bickered, tried to one-up each other and messed up their steps elicited loud and appreciative guffaws.
The modern and hilarious Go for Barocco followed, which the program described as the “stylistic heir to Balanchine's Middle-Blue-Verging-on-Black-and White period.” But his legendary status doesn't stop the Trocks from satirizing him with gleeful abandon. While three dancers strutted their stuff, two very serious avant-garde musicians accompanied them with toy xylophones and kazoos. Who knew bubble wrap and gargling could be so funny?
Then, of course, there was the Trocks' famous rendition of the Dying Swan, complete with molting feathers and limp, broken wings. It's an audience favorite for a reason.
The Trocks rounded out the evening with the Walpurgis Night, which, they say, “Russians have long respected as a specimen of the Soviet balletic camp.” It's their version of the Bolshoi's original, and while certainly a hoot (how can satyrs not be worth a few chuckles?), it was even more full of gorgeous classical ballet. As the three nymphs did their beautiful dance with gauzy scarves, it was easy to forget they were men and just revel in the dancing.
Indeed, it's equally important to remember just how difficult it is for men to do what they're doing and with such apparent ease. In particular, on pointe technique requires dancers to balance on the tips of their toes. It's one thing for a size 0, less-than-100-pound ballerina to do so; quite another for a man weighing 150 or more.
Don't forget, too, the ability of a dancer to lift his pas de deux partner, who may weigh as much as he does, skyward. Impressive dancing, indeed.
In the end, the thing that audiences took away from Les Ballets Trockadero is the zany fun, the joyful playfulness and the high hilarity of classically trained dancers in drag. And that's probably just fine with the Thickenthighyas and the Kolesterolikovas who make up the troupe. To put it simply: The Trocks out and out rock.