It’s not every day that you attend an evening of classical ballet and hear the audience chortling and guffawing as the dancers on stage perform extracts from well-loved traditional ballets. And it’s certainly not the norm to see the ballerinas in their multi-coloured tutus sporting size 12 pink satin pointe shoes and wearing lashings of stage make-up. But what’s that poking out of the ballerina’s beautiful sequinned bodice? Can it be chest hair? That can only mean one thing: the Trocks are back in town.

Joshua Thake aka Eugenia Repelskii as a Dying Swan © John Hudson
Joshua Thake aka Eugenia Repelskii as a Dying Swan
© John Hudson
Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo, now celebrating its 40th year, is a troupe of 16 male dancers of varying sizes and ages who, in their pink tights and grotesque make-up, have taken on the world of the dainty ballerina. From their extensive travelling, they have built up have a vast international following – many of whom were in London to see them on the start of their eight weeks tour of the UK. Though they may not be to the purists’ liking, there is no denying that each and every dancer is dedicated to his art, perfecting its nuances and facing the challenges that it presents. They all perform the ballet classics with great talent and seriousness. Their bodies are pliable, upright and strong though at times lacking the necessary lyricism in the upper body and arms. It is amazing how well they cope with some of the faster finicky footwork that normally a small female dancer would attempt – crossing the stage in smooth rollerblade bourées, turning multiple fouettés en pointe and springing with girlish glee.

But this is not a “men in drag” show, despite their tongue-in-cheek humour, burlesque and spoofing during the performance when they poke fun at the often-heavy moments in ballet story telling.They are dancers who, like actors in Tudor times, take female roles as well as male ones and thus prove that magical act of dancing en pointe can also be accomplished with finesse by able young men.

So what tickled the London viewers’ fancy on opening night of the company’s two week visit to the Peacock Theatre?

Reading the programme gave the first laugh, as the casting shows the dancers have Russian names, naturally with added humour – Olga Supphoza; Innokenti Smoktumuchsky; Tatiana Youbetyourbootskaya; Nadia Doumiafeyva and of course the four Legupski brothers! And, after curtain up and a Swan Queen who made eyes at the audience and a prince who dropped her in the pas de deux, it was the anticipation of the unexpected: the quick wave to an audience member from a ‘swan’ as ‘she’ entered, only to find herself on the wrong side of the stage: a dancer getting knocked over; the pairing of a short ‘weedy’ danceur with a stockier ballerina partner, so that lifts had to be executed with the help of corps members: the often overlong mime sequences in ballet storytelling that would see added elements such as shoulder shrugs, exasperation at having to repeat, and stomping of feet when not understood. Then there was the patience of the corps members who must pose prettily while waiting for the leading couple to finish their pas de deux, which saw one ballerina eat an apple, then a banana, while others looked bored.

Chase Johnsey as Yakaterina Verbosovich and Giovanni Goffredo aka Sergey Legupski in Paquita © John Hudson
Chase Johnsey as Yakaterina Verbosovich and Giovanni Goffredo aka Sergey Legupski in Paquita
© John Hudson
The Dying Swan, whose spotlight had trouble finding her, wore a tutu that dropped feathers throughout the piece. One ballerina wore black framed spectacles to dance in; the Cavalier in Paquita sported a Donald Trump look-alike wig; his ballerina, Yakaterina Verbosovich (in real life Chase Johnsey), offered amazing footwork and was so feminine and beautiful to look at and the other six dancers who performed the different variations were equally astounding in their technical feats. And there was the sudden, fist clenched, goal scoring “I did it!” when a ‘ballerina’ achieved her multiple pirouettes. No wonder there was so much laughter in the auditorium. The only down point for me – and the reason, after seeing photos, I had not been tempted to view the company before – was the over-loaded facial make-up, their heavily blued eyelids, mascara as thick as treacle, long cow-like eyelashes, and lips of ruby red. However, that all became part of the package and exaggerated some of the wonderful facial grimaces made by the dancers. I realise now after viewing the funny side of normally serious classical ballet, what I have been missing. The Trocks offered a highly entertaining evening and I surprised myself by chortling out loud with the rest of the audience!