Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 1, 2024

Review: Jacob’s Pillow, “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo”

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through June 30, 2024
by C. L. Blacke
World famous Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo opens the Pillow’s 2024 festival with a hilarious romp through classic ballets, bringing sheer delight and raucous laughter to audiences in their first appearance at the Ted Shawn Theater since 2010.
Celebrating 50-years of subversive and comic dance, the Trocks (as they’re lovingly called) were formed in 1974 in the wake of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. Since its inception, the all-male repertory company has been providing a stage to male dancers of all shapes, sizes, races, classes, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No longer is classical ballet reserved only for the traditional, the aesthetic, or the elite.
The program opens with Swan Lake, Act II. True to its demanding choreography with all its precision and rigor, the Trocks’ version also brings their special brand of slapstick. Odette, performed by Colette Adae, tantalizes en pointe, perfecting a (sometimes exhausting) flutter of arms, barrage of bourrées and multi-partnered lifts despite being chased across the stage by the grimacing and overly dramatic Yuri Smirnov as Von Rothbart.
But it’s the corps de ballet that steals the performance. One dancer in particular, Anya Marx, whose upstaging antics play directly to the audience, provokes hoots of joy from the rafters.
As the lights dim after intermission, the Balanchine satire Go for Barocca showcases a complex weaving of dancers in simple black skirts, an intricate tangle of arms, and the sassy facial expressions of Holly Dey-Abroad.
Photo by Christopher Duggan
However, the program’s comedy isn’t just limited to the personas, wigs, and choreography. It encompasses missed musical cues, misplaced spotlights, and trick costumes as well. Perhaps one of the most famous solos in classical ballet (and in the Trockadero repertoire), The Dying Swan flaunts Olga Supphozova's panache, who dies a horrifying, tragic (and rather prolonged) death in a pile of molting feathers that is worthy of any Shakespearean actor.
And if the Trocks’ professional dancing skills ever come into question, the Paquita finale leaves no room for debate. From effortless grand jetés and fishtail lifts to a dizzying array of chaine turns and fouettés, their technical strengths are evident, especially in Varvara Laptopova’s graceful performance that rivals any traditional prima ballerina.
These men are more than just drag queen divas dressed in tutus. They proudly embody diversity, inclusion, and access to the ballet world (right down to the ballerina wearing glasses onstage); and the audience demands more.