Normal service was resumed, in this second programme of the London season from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo notably, in the return of the offstage announcement, delivered in the mock-disdainful accent of an English-speaking Russian, identifying a raft of cast changes, ending always with the news that Olga Notgoodenuv is indisposed because she has run off to dance with Les Grands Ballets de Luton (or similar).  It was missing from the opening night of last week’s programme (due to some technical fault, I understand) and, since “the announcement” is such a part of Trocks’ folklore, it was sorely missed. (Substitute Nureyev for Notgoodenuv and base Les Grands Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas in Luton and one can understand the exceptional wit in these opening texts).

Alla Snizova (C Hopuy) and Mikhail Mypansarov (R Vega)  in <i>Tchaikovsky PDD</i> (after G Balanchine) © Emma Kauldhar
Alla Snizova (C Hopuy) and Mikhail Mypansarov (R Vega) in Tchaikovsky PDD (after G Balanchine)
© Emma Kauldhar

That voice sets the scene so deliciously for the gentle comedy, slapstick farce and excellent dancing to follow.  Here, the traditional opening white act was a complete Les Sylphides, usually known as ChopEniana in the Trocks repertoire, which began with as beautiful a tableau as one is ever likely to see in any “straight” performance of Fokine’s epoch-changing abstract ballet. 

As well as being a passable second cousin to the original, this is lampooning at its most creative. The ballerinas are men but they dance gracefully (outside of the humour) and with considerable strength. I imagine that any professional ballerina would be happy to scythe through the air with the jeté of Nina Enimenimynimova (the alter ego of Long Zou); a dancer of impeccable technique who is completely believable as a classical ballerina, with or without the humour.

Exposing and exaggerating every dancer’s worst fears and envious thoughts lies at the heart of the parody in this Les Sylphides. Is the tulle of my skirt lying as it should?  Am I leading with the correct leg? Have I raised the wrong arm? Why is she always at the front? Is that my auntie in the audience?  Am I standing in the right place? Is Boris drunk, again?  Some of these thoughts exist unobserved in any performance but with the Trocks they are brought front and centre!  This Les Sylphides is like asking Rowan Atkinson to play Hamlet both as Maigret and Mr Bean. It is a wonderful mix of serious, comical, pastiche mixed with envy, self-doubt, rivalry and a swig or two of bourbon.  

Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) in <i>The Dying Swan</i> © Emma Kauldhar
Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) in The Dying Swan
© Emma Kauldhar
The twin balletic pillars of Balanchine and Bournonville received their ribbing in further splashes of gentle irony; first with the Tchaikovsky pas de deux, danced with suitable alacrity and attack by Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy) and Roberto Vega’s Mikhail Mypansarov – temporarily rechristened Mypansaronfire; followed by the Napoli pas de six, in which Takaomi Yoshino, in particular, essayed the grace, speed and shaping of the Bournonville style in his danseur guise as Boris Dumbkopf. The programme’s standing joke is that no photographs illustrate the biographies of Yoshino, Dumbkopf or his ballerina image as Varvara Laptopova: a neat little metaphor for the “bitchy rivalries” that underpin much of the humour.

The highlight of a very enjoyable evening was Olga Supphozova’s Dying Swan, performed with all the skills of a great clown impersonating an aged prima ballerina. Olga’s body-double, Robert Carter has been dancing with the Trocks since 1995 and all of that immense experience is distilled into three-and-a-half minutes of comedy genius. A hybrid of artistry, ego and belching, abetted by the capacity to moult feathers at every step; Carter turned a staple (performed every night) into a few minutes of unique magic.

And, then onto Raymonda’s Wedding – usually the final part of a three-act ballet named after the bride – but here presented as a ‘confusing divertissement in two scenes’, with welcome returns for Supphozova and Snizova enjoying two (of four) bridesmaid solos, joined by Laptopova and Alberto Pretto’s Nina Immobilashvili – the very best of all the names! Long Zou also returned (as Enimenimynimova) in the title role and, believe me, she could probably dance the real Raymonda as a guest at the Mariinsky – he is that good, and that believable, as a world-class ballerina.         

One of the cast changes announced before the curtain rose was the replacement of the intoxicating Jacques d’Aniels for the apparently intoxicated Boris Mudko, the company’s premier danseur who performed both the role of the poet in Les Sylphides and the bridegroom, Jean de Brienne in Raymonda’s Wedding.   Mudko’s bio frankly confesses that it took ‘gallons of tea and several enemas’ to sober up this talented Russian from Dzerzhinsk before he could dance. The memory of those enemas seemed etched into Mudko’s vacant stare – like a peculiar blonde amongst the Walking Dead - throughout his characterless performance of the statuesque bridegroom: an essay in rich, silent humour from Giovanni Ravelo.

No Trocks’ programme is ever over until the encore and for this UK tour (lasting until November) the fifteen-strong ensemble performed New York, New York, accessorised on a Statue of Liberty theme, holding aloft an imaginary flame in each right hand, for a glorious burlesque ending. Absolutely, Fabulous!         

*****