Paying homage to the inaccurate assumption that all accomplished ballerinas must be Russian, the production begins with an announcement that various parts will be played tonight by comedically-named Russian ballerinas. From Mikhail Mypansarov to Nina Enimenimynimova, the audience is already warming to the Trocks, and ready for their performances to live up to their names. And they really do! With a selection of pieces including well-known ballet movements like Swan Lake Act II and bizarre contemporary explorations like Patterns in Space, no matter what they revamp, it is hilarious.
Without relying too heavily on cross-gender casting for comedic purposes, the ballerinas’ combination of slapstick comedy and more artfully crafted jokes leave the audience in stitches. You wouldn’t think that there would be anything that funny about an empty spotlight or a lengthy preparation to play a recorder, but somehow the Trocks make these ludicrous moments extremely enjoyable.
Defying typical ballet norms, the individual personalities of the cast shine through. Amongst the surprisingly graceful choreography, we see ballerinas squabble for the limelight, self-obsess over their beauty, and supposedly misjudge the range of their extensions resulting in more than one pointe shoe to the face. The humour of these moments is well-timed and harmlessly pokes fun at ballet conventions. There are occasionally moments where the toppling over of the ensemble of swans is a little overdone, but it is still met with plenty of laughter from the audience and we are quickly swept into the next impressive feat.
Most impressively, the dancers are not only queens of comedy, but have outstanding technique, elegance and power. The final act in particular displays the dancers’ abilities: they perform astonishing jumps seeming to linger in the air, a mind-boggling number of fouettés, and nimble, intricate pointe-work. Every soloist completely fills the stage, causing us to marvel at their versatility.
The dance of the dying swan, performed Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) is wildly eccentric, yet somehow beautiful. Whilst still remaining light-hearted, throwing in moves normally unseen in ballet, Carter expertly commands the stage, leaving us in applause for minutes after the swan’s final demise. The swan’s costume is magical. Heaps and heaps of feather’s tumble from her skirts as she dances, thanks to costume designers Ken Busbin and Jeffrey Sturdivant, who deserve much credit for their innovative costumes, ranging from velvet jumpsuits to hot pink tutus.
The chemistry between the dancers is delightful. Artistic Director Toby Dobrin mentions in the post-show discussion: “we insist that all the diva attitude happens onstage rather than off.” It is plain to see that the cast are all natural performers; strong in their individual performances, but even stronger together, as an unstoppable force of diva ballerinas.
PHOTOS: Tristram Kenton
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