Since the founding of the New York-based Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Trocks) in 1974, the original concept for the company has remained unchanged: to present parodies of ballet classics performed by a troupe of professional all-male dancers.
As a late convert to the Trocks myself, it took a single performance to become a super fan of the company’s delicious blend of high camp, athletic skill and artistic beauty. Performing a wide swath of classical ballet and contemporary works by such dance luminaries as Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and Pina Bausch, the key to the Trocks comes from its unique blend of dance prowess and comedy.
Incorporating and exaggerating the foibles, accidents, and underlying incongruities of serious dance, the fact that men dance all the parts enhances, rather than mocks, the spirit of dance as an art form.
Over its four decades, dancers have come and gone. One of the Trock’s newest is Ugo Cirri. Originally from Switzerland, Cirri joined the Trocks in June last year. Invited to audition for the troupe in New York that same year, he was invited immediately by director Tory Dobrin following his the class. “I was thrilled and signed it that night,” he says.
As one of the Trocks’ more recent additions, Cirri says he initially found it essential to perform “by the book” and build from there. “Once you’re more comfortable and used to the choreography and music, you can start building on top of that, whether it’s a musical or comedic moment,” he says.
For veteran dancer Robert Carter, who has been with the company since 1995, keeping things fresh is a necessity. He does so by picking a small part of the role he is dancing and changing the approach or the nuance while staying true to the original choreography.
“Sometimes it’s noticeable and other times not, but keeps things from becoming perfunctory or monotonous,” he says. “As we are never out to offend in our presentation, we may sometimes switch up a joke to make it relevant and receivable to the audience of where we happen to be, but the key is always to make the humour relatable and in a way with class.”
Carter says being relevant to audiences is one of the many joys in performing with the Trocks. “My favourite part of the show is discovering which parts of the show garner different reactions based on where we happen to be,” he says.
As a touring company, the Trocks are constantly on the road. To date, they have performed in more than 30 countries and 500 cities worldwide. It would be on Cirri’s first tour to Germany, where he knew he was all-in. Scheduled to perform a small role in Raymonda, after one of the other dancers was injured, he found himself “thrown into the corps” of Swan Lake.
“When I was out on stage, in a tutu, pointe shoes, with that iconic Tchaikovsky score, it all became so real, it was amazing,” he says.
Like many of its dancers, since joining Trocks Cirri says beyond the dance, it has been the opportunity to travel the world with the show that he finds most exciting.
“When we went on tour to Thailand and Japan a few months ago, I had to pinch myself backstage because I couldn’t believe I was dancing in these countries I had always dreamed of visiting,” he says. “As well as getting to know new cultures, new countries, while sharing with them a part of ours.”
The same is true for Carter, who undertook his first tour with the company to Taiwan in early 1996. “The best part of touring with the company for me is the opportunity to not only share my gift with countless people but to see the world while doing what I love to do most,” he says.
As the more senior member of the company, the last word from the dancers goes to Carter, who says Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a fun evening for children and adults alike. “For those who have never attended a ballet show or for balletomanes, we offer something for everyone,” he says. “What’s more is that we’re able to bring people together to laugh, something I feel the world needs a lot more of these days.”
It is a sentiment held by Svetlana Dvoretsky, president and director of Show One Productions, who are once again presenting the Trocks in Vancouver.
“In these difficult periods, this production is full of raucous humour and unbridled positivity,” she says. “Whether they are laughing along with the company’s unique rendition of ballet favourites like Swan Lake or delighting at their take on contemporary dance, audiences frequently cite the group’s sensational comic timing and peerless ballet technique as the singular reason they keep coming back.”
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (630 Hamilton St, Vancouver) on February 1. Visit showoneproductions.ca for tickets and information.