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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Birmingham Hippodrome

General Director: Eugene McDougle

Artistic Director: Tory Dorbin

Reviewer: Karen McCandless

[Rating:4]

Let’s be honest, ballet isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s because they haven’t seen a performance from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo or “The Trocks” as they are affectionately known. Male ballet dancers pretending to be female ballet dancers – so ballet drag queens – is a fairly unique idea that is sure to appeal to many a ballet sceptic. From the names of the ballet dancers (mainly Russian puns such as Ida Nevasayneva and Sonia Leftova) to the fake profiles in the programme right through to the voice over introduction, to the costumes, make up, lighting and set design, there is comedy in everything, some slapstick, some more subtle.

But, while comedy may be at the heart of it, these men can ballet dance. The cast of eighteen ballet dancers hailing from all over the globe are all strong dancers. There is a serious amount of complex ballet choreography (designed for female ballet dancers) that the whole cast performs exceptionally well. It may even convert some of those who think they could never enjoy a serious ballet performance. The whole troupe take on ballet classics such as Swan Lake and perform them with a surprising amount of grace given that they are mostly big, burly men dressed up in tutus and prancing about on stage pretending to be women. You’d also be surprised at how well they can lift each other given that they aren’t exactly the lightest and most dainty of dancers. Some of the men make very convincing women as the make up is excellent – over the top but still appropriate to the performances. And the love scenes didn’t seem to be a struggle for any of them!

There are a few problems in the staging in that the action often takes place right at the very side of the stage, meaning a good portion of the audience can’t actually see what is happening. Whether this is a choreography problem or a problem with translating the programme onto this particular stage, isn’t clear.

There is a variety of performances, from group numbers to solo shows but perhaps it does get a touch samey towards the end. After all, there are only so many ways you can inject comedy into a ballet performance. That said, it is an extremely enjoyable way to spend an evening and a very slick production to watch. The dancers all gell well as a ballet ensemble and bring charisma and light to the show. And it’s a show that makes you laugh – a lot – and feel happy but also cultured because you have just seen an exemplary, very untraditional ballet performance.

Runs until: 2 February

 

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