Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre, London

Hairy chests and pointe shoes charm dance lovers
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"In the great tradition of the Russian Ballet," explains a strangled Slavic voice, "there will be a cast change." The all-male Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the most famous parody act in dance, are always on the lookout for diva foibles, but they love ballerinas for their dancing as well as their tantrums.

The Trocks pay besotted attention to the particularities of ballet. The first joke may be the sight of them - men with pointe shoes, hairy chests and fluttering false eyelashes - but they really do dance these ballets. In Paquita, star ballerina Olga Supphozova (danced by Robert Carter) makes a dramatic entrance, snapping Spanish temperament with every move. The steps are all there; the joke is in Carter's you-want-to-make-something-of-it glare, in the combative sweep of his arms.

Part of the charm is the way the Trocks go for different kinds of laughs. In Swan Lake, the corps of swans don't just group together in fear of the huntsmen, they tremble and flap. Then they start to cast resentful glances. One stomps out for a confrontation, before rushing back to dainty femininity so that the Prince and the Swan Queen can rescue them.

In this London visit, the first for five years, the Trocks stick to their core repertoire. Swan Lake gives the company a plot to play with. The hero and heroine mime endlessly at each other, sticking surprisingly close to traditional gestures, but performing them with frantic exaggeration. Every time the wicked magician appears, he's accompanied by clouds of dry ice - which is pretty much how it is in many traditional Swan Lakes.

Balanchine's Tarantella is there to remind us that they can dance. Fernando Medina Gallego, appearing as Svetlana Lofatkina, roars through a whole series of turns. He ends by spinning himself silly, but not before we've seen how fast he can go.

The Grande Pas de Quatre is prime Trockadero territory. This 1845 dance was made for the four most celebrated ballerinas of the day, and is ripe with opportunities for rivalry. As senior ballerina Taglioni, Bernd Burgmaier clearly has it in for Scott Weber's Grisi - whenever Burgmaier looks Weber's way, his sweet simper acquires a twist of vinegar. Poor Grisi doesn't quite know what hit her, she never seems to see it coming. In The Dying Swan, Paul Ghiselin's Ida Nevasayneva isn't just expiring, she's moulting. Feathers drift from her tutu with every trembling step.

Paquita shows off how much this company care about dancing. There's no plot, just a whole series of grand dances to oompah music and it's amazing how often the jokes come from the dancing. Raffaele Morra's jokes are almost all with the deliciousness of his solo, its voluptuous arms and sweet headtilts. The Trocks can go from pratfalls to jokes about dancing in a single breath.