You gotta love boys in frocks, especially when they’re as multi-talented as The Trocks, who have been delighting Brisbane audiences all this week, just as they’ve delighted people all over the world in 400 cities in the last 30 years.
Yes, they send classical ballet up rotten the Dying Swan who sheds her feathers all over the stage makes you wish that Folkine and Pavlova had been as funny as this but the important point is that they are not just lumpish male dancers who would be equally at home wearing footy boots. They are professionally trained ballet dancers with exquisite control and sophisticated techniques, and like all great parodists, they can mock the genre only because they are complete masters of it.
Many of us have seen this show before, but it’s even better the second time, because you know what to expect and so can concentrate on the dancing itself rather than the surprises. You’ve got cross-dressing and comedy, but you’ve also got balletic skills of the highest order, and sitting in Row P at the Lyric Theatre, I was hard-pressed at times to think of them as male, except for the occasional hairy chest visible in the décolletage, and the cod-pieces (surely padded, some of them) that flashed into view beneath the short tutus.
The physical comedy is what attracts people to The Trocks, especially when it echoes what must surely go on in most ballet dancers’ minds egos are very fragile in this profession, and there must be many members in every corps de ballet who have wanted to shove their rivals off stage, hurry up that interminable curtain call, trip up that dancer who up-stages everyone else, and pull up the rapidly descending bodice. Here they get to do it, to the audience’s delight, and most of the laughs came from the opportunity to see behind the perfected dancing and realise that dancers are as human as everyone else.
Dancers twist their ankles, and their floral headpieces fall over their eyes. They have to wear big black eyeglasses so they can see where they’re going, and frequently they display their utter boredom at having to maintain those poses for minutes while the prima ballerina extends her solo to an interminable length.
The laughs can be more subtle than this, though. The dancers parody some of the great ballet traditions, like those of the great Balanchine, and people far more au fait with the genre than I am have commented on the truth behind much of the satire.
The show is a lovely mix of parody, high camp, missed cues and pure professional brilliance, and one of the highlights for me and for most of the audience, I suspect was the encore, where the complete company were on stage jivin’ and jumpin’ and rockin’ the joint, showing that most dancers just like to have fun.
And those purists who tut-tut about irreverence and mockery, and dragging the ballet down to the lowest level, would be wise to acknowledge that, because they take their work so seriously, The Trocks prove that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.
Artistic director: Toby Dobrin
Playing until Sunday 13 November 2005 (2.30pm performance only) Duration: 2 hours, with two intervals