Joyce Theater, New York, NY; December 20, 2014 (m)
You know it is Christmas season in New York City (in an even numbered year) when the Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (affectionately known to their fans as the Trocks) are performing at the Joyce Theater.
The all-male ensemble has been entertaining balletomanes for forty years with their combination of slapstick, parody, pastiche and extremely capable dancing. The first work of the afternoon (the ‘B program’), “ChopEniana” leans a bit too much in the slapstick direction for my taste. With music by Chopin and staging by Alexandre Minz (after Fokine) it pokes fun of the classic work, “Les Sylphides”. The heaviest handed clowning came from the corps members. They were constantly bumping into each other (or being bumped into by the soloists). There was even one part of the ballet when they fell asleep (I’m not sure why, I must have missed something). One of the dancers was sleep walking the way Frankenstein would when she suddenly fell into the orchestra pit (there was no orchestra – the music was taped). It was quite funny, but also a bit much.
The soloists were led by Lariska Dumbchenko, aka Raffaele Morra (she of the hairy arm pits and chest). Her Poet was Sergey Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) who danced the entire work as though he were in a coma. When Legupski returned to the stage for his pas de deux with Dumbchenko, his hair looked like he had stuck his finger in a light socket. Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) stood out for her fantastic leaps which she performed wearing a very goofy smile on her face.
“Patterns in Space” is a takeoff of Merce Cunningham’s modern dance choreography. Not being familiar with Cunningham’s works, I didn’t find it as funny as many of the audience members. I was really entertained by the ‘orchestra’ however, the two musicians being played by Dumbchenko and Yuri Smirnov (Robert Carter). They used all kinds of household items for their ‘instruments’. Cunningham, of course, was not unknown to have just such an ‘orchestra’ for some of his pieces. Their ‘instruments’ were scissors, spray cans, candy wrappers, and paper bags. The funniest moment was when Dumbchenko took a drink of water, moved herself into an upside down position and then gargled. The joke was priceless.
“Patters in Space” was followed by another classic piece, the Pas de Six from “Esmerelda”, with music by Pugni and choreography after Petipa. It is a very pretty, well danced ballet. Since she has been dumped by her never seen lover, Esmerelda is very sad. Her dancing is weary and lethargic. Her four gypsy friends and male friend, Pierre Grengoire, try to cheer her up throughout the entire piece. Pierre (Araf Legupski aka Lazlo Major) gives her a pill and she perks right up. Now she’s loopy, but no longer depressed. As Esmerelda, Nina Immobilashivili (Alberto Pretto) showed off her wonderful pirouettes and gorgeous footwork. Legupski impressed with his very nice leaps and air turns.
Next came what is probably the Trocks’ signature piece, “The Dying Swan”, danced by Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin, the oldest member of the company), to music by Saint-Saens and choreography after Fokine. It begins with the spotlight bounding around the stage, searching for our Swan. She finally arrives, her back to the audience, feathers molting in the hundreds. Nevasayneva’s arms rippled with wonderful swanlike movements. Then, with no warning, she Swan was acting like a sick chicken. At the end, she was sadly trying to stuff a handful of feathers into her tutu. After only three minutes on stage, it was over, Nevasayneva having landed face down on the stage. The applause and encores lasted longer than the entire piece. As she lay there, she motioned with her hands in the familiar “Give me more applause” gesture. The audience, myself included, loved all of it.
The last ballet, “Don Quixote”, was the highlight of the afternoon. To music is by Minkus and choreography after Petipa and Gorsky, the Trocks’ ballet is a half hour version of the three act classic work. There are a few changes to the storyline. Instead of a father, Lorenzo, Kitri has a mother, Lorenza. Kitri’s mother (just like her father in other versions) does not want her daughter to marry the penniless barber, Basil (Basilio). Instead she wants Kitri to marry the foolish but very wealthy Marquise Cristobal Iglesias Hasburgo de Aruza y Cycamonga (Gamache as he is usually called, and which is much easier to spell). There is also a beggar woman hated by Lorenza, who turns into Amour and helps Kitri to marry Basil.
As Kitri, Yakatarina Verbosoivch (Chase Johnsey) is a fantastic dancer who could rival many actual female ballerinas. She is extremely pretty looks like a real woman. The balances she held during the grand pas and at the beginning of her fan solo went on for so long that it was as though time stood still. The look on her face after these balances clearly said, “I am the best Kitri you will ever see.” It was very funny. Her fouettés were very good, with a few doubles thrown in, but she wandered a bit at the end. During her fan solo, she threw her fan offstage, but immediately took out another fan from the top of her tutu. In ballet, as in life, it is always good to be prepared.
Being a Trock “Don Q” there were a few jokes thrown in. At the beginning of the grand pas, Kitri spread her legs apart twice. She also performed a somersault during one of her solos. As Basil, Vyacheslav Legupski (Paolo Cervellera) was wonderful. He was a very secure partner, and lifted Kitri over his head with one hand twice. His tours en l’air and turns à la seconde were very well done. The couple had real chemistry. Maya Thichenthighya (Ihaia Miller) was the largest Amour I have ever seen, but her dancing in the vision scene was light and lovely.
The afternoon ended with a chorus line kick to Hava Negila. I can’t wait for next Saturday’s performance of Program A!