Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male company that dances spoofy versions of serious ballets, is always good for laughs. But the company's visit this week to the Prince Theater's NextMove Dance series also offers an interesting tasting menu of classical masterpieces.
The Prince program also includes Swan Lake, Act II; the pas de six from La Esmeralda; The Dying Swan; and sections of Don Quixote.
Of this selection, La Esmeralda, set to music by Cesare Pugni and based on Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is the least known in the United States. While the full ballet is rarely performed here, the female variation is a popular competition solo and will likely be danced many times this weekend at the Youth America Grand Prix Philadelphia semifinal at Swarthmore College, as will solos from Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake.
La Esmeralda is a tragic love story, and the Trocks played it to the hilt, with great amounts of swooning. But it was also an uncommon chance to see the pas de six, which they danced with great skill, as well as with many jokes, heavy makeup, wigs, and extra-large pointe shoes.
Two of the five ballets are swan-oriented, and both are over the top. The Dying Swan literally molts as she bourrées across the stage, and then tries desperately to reattach her feathers.
Swan Lake also offers many over-the-top bits along with stellar technique, from facial expressions that leave no question of intention to a corps dancer who never stays in line, and some unlikely lifts.
Le Corsaire and Don Quixote were played straighter -- but, of course, still with bits of wackiness.
There are so many clever details: the dancer who Swiffers instead of sweeps the stage in Don Quixote, the bored corps dancer who eats an apple when she's meant to be posing in La Esmeralda, the man who leaps into an unexpected split, the woman who does a somersault in the middle of an otherwise traditional pas de deux.
It's fun to see men en pointe because they're clearly having fun. The Trocks are very strong technicians, and they don't look like men in drag, but like genuine ballerinas.
Don't have time to see a full season's worth of ballet? Get the entertaining, high-quality condensed version in one night at the Prince.