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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 29, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 26
Les Ballets Trockadero: great art with humor
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Les Ballets Trockadero: great art with humor

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO
VOLS. 1 & 2 (DVD)


I know what you probably think about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo: pure over-the-top buffoonery unworthy of a second glance. But I insist that the art of music with dance is very much respected and elevated in their performances. The dancers are excellent technicians, in addition to being gifted in the art of physical comedy. Every dancer has been classically trained and has passed a test for technical brilliance, sense of humor, and above all the desire and ability to be a team player. (One learns this from a most informative interview at the end of Volume 2 of this two-disc set.) And lest you think that these oh-so-Gay DVDs were produced with less than state-of-the-art techniques, let me say that someone behind the scenes loves us - both picture and sound are absolutely first-rate.

Les Sylphides begins Volume 1 with no comedy at all - just beautiful dancing to lovely music very well played. Unless seeing male dancers en pointe sends you into stitches of laughter, you will find nothing funny in the first scenes. At first, I was disappointed because I was looking for comedy and forgot what excellent, serious artists Les Ballet Trockadero can be. Silly me! Just as La Gran Scena shows genuine love and respect for the art of opera, so does the Trock love and respect serious ballet. Their work is so highly regarded that every big name in ballet has seen their show.

The humor creeps in slowly and with subtlety at first. Later some of it is not subtle at all and includes downright slapstick. But the expert dancing always returns, both for the sheer pleasure of it and as a foil to the comic elements. As a bonus, each dancer has a distinct personality and sense of humor - you get to know them and love them.

Volume 1 contains five ballet pieces, all expertly done, and a six-minute 'Behind the Scenes' segment. Volume 2 repeats The Dying Swan but includes four other works and the aforementioned interview with Tory Dobrin, the Trock's charming and articulate artistic director. He fills us in on how the company was formed in 1974, how it has evolved, and why it is so good.

If you, like me, saw this troupe when the Seattle Men's Chorus brought them to Meany Hall many years ago, you are also in for the surprise I experienced in viewing these discs. Perhaps those Seattle appearances were during a low point, for what we see here is much better, both in the actual dancing and in the humor, than what we saw at Meany. When I ordered these DVDs I thought I would most likely watch them once, write a mildly positive review, and put them away forever. Now I can't wait to show them off to friends.

O f special merit are two works from Volume 2. Le Corsaire is a pas de deux with music by Riccardo Drigo and absolutely fabulous choreography by Marius Petipa. Both dancers are as good as any you'll see elsewhere, with amazing athletic power and grace. The humor is good, but it's the dancing that will wow you. There is nothing clich├ęd in their movements.

Even more impressive is the choreography by Peter Anastos in the following Go for Barocco, to the music of J.S. Bach. I was constantly reminded of my favorite program by the Mark Morris Dance Group (to music by Handel). The Trock performance is easily of that caliber, and in some ways even better. For one thing, remember that all these dancers are men - not skinny ballerinas for whom dancing all evening en pointe has a long history, but tall, muscular men, far heavier than their female counterparts. The lifts and catches are all the more impressive for their masculinity. Dance doesn't get better than this!

The DVDs are available both as a two-disc set and separately. Highly recommended.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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