Ah, the Trocks are back in Milan. Our paths have crossed so many times… in Milan, London, Paris. How I've missed you.
The company was last at the Teatro Arcimboldi in Milan in 2016. There were many new faces this time, though it is wonderful to see that Robert Carter (aka Olga Supphozova) is still with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo after 28 seasons. He makes me giggle just from his fussing-around walk, and I've bent double with laughter at his spectacular turn in Paquita.
Paquita wasn't on the programme this time around, though the Swan Lake evergreen was. Takaomi Yoshino (Varvara Laptopova) made for a spectacular Odette, with an enviable technique and extraordinarily fast and controlled turns with minimum help from her prince. Ok, maybe there are a few two many gags with a corps member getting knocked over – though a woman near me screeched, ear-piercingly, at every pratfall – but the stylistic jokes with exaggerated positions and Soviet-style attitude, mixed with knowing streetwise gestures, milk every laugh possible after years of fine-tuning. The cygnets, with the rebellious one pulling in the opposite direction and with her head coordination completely off, is a hit, and a sequence where she has her back to the audience was new to me.
I didn't ‘get' Vivaldi Suite, a Balanchine pastiche which is too straight for laughs and not elegant enough to be appreciated as good ballet. Salvador Sasot Sellart (Grunya Protazova), however, in the Russian Dance (Danse russe pour Mlle. Pelageya Karpakova… yes, that's a real Russian ballerina name; the first ever Odette/Odile) was a hoot with her handkerchief being tossed offstage and making an immediate comeback, then it sticks to her hand, and then becomes as big as a bedsheet. Great fun.
Of course, the company's signature piece, The Dying Swan, was included (danced by Carter) with the feathers falling from the tutu during the bourrées like a Nutcracker snow scene, followed by the curtain call clichés all beautifully hammed-up. We'd seen a similar ballet-tic earlier when Duane Gosa (Vladimir Legupski), as Seigfried, did a long, slow, Nureyev-style preparatory walk across the entire diagonal of the large Arcimboldi stage, a stage with the same dimensions as those at La Scala. Of course, he exits without having performed a single step. That takes bravery, helped by the knowledge that the slower the walk is or the longer a stationary position is held, the funnier it becomes. These guys have been honing the timing for almost half a century.
The third part was Valpurgeyeva Noch, with music from Gounod's Faust (Walpurgisnacht), inspired by Leonid Lavrovsky's ballet scene for the Bolshoi, and not Balanchine's ballet. This is a gift for the Trocks with Bacchus, Bacchante, and Pan together with fauns, nymphs, and maidens – even played straight it puts a smile on your face. Takaomi Yoshino was dazzling as Pan (this time appearing under the name of Boris Dumbkopf). Ugo Cirri (Minnie Van Driver) boasts a refined technique and was an elegant Bacchante, partnered by a theatrically vainglorious Joshua Thake (Jacques d'Aniels). It's a heady mashup of horns, diaphanous tunics, and grapes, with athletic foolery and delicate artistry (Duane Gosa as Helen Highwaters and Philip Martin-Nelson as Nadia Doumiafevya were graceful in their veil duet) and was a great end to the programme… though we were sent off home to a Riverdance encore.
Come back soon.
The Tricks of the Trocks: powder, ice and pointe shoes (interviews with the Trocks)
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.
The Trocks are back! Hooray! Hooray! I enjoyed the interviews they gave during Covid-19