It’s a cold heart that doesn’t warm to the Trocks. The company’s singular brand of pastiche has been refined and honed over the decades to a rarified level of performance. Never mind the parodies and pratfalls, Tory Dobrin’s all-male troupe of tutu’d ballerinas must now be considered one of the most unusually gifted dance companies in existence.
The balance has been subtly shifted from parody to pure performance – there is less to laugh at and more to admire. The opening piece, Act II of Swan Lake, is a case in point. Starting out enormously funny with Siegfried and Benno swapping crossbows until the arrival of a well-drilled corps of swans and a genuinely moving Queen of Swans.
The jokes are there, of course, with accidental fumbles and rebellious waterfowl getting carried away but the steps themselves impress: if it wasn’t for the joker on the end, for example, the cygnets’ dance would not disgrace the stage of a major opera house.
Similarly, soloists like Carlos Hopuy, Long Zou and Takaomi Yoshino are as technically adroit as many of their equivalents in one of the major companies. The physical jokes are more subtle in this programme, infiltrated into the dances rather than central to them. Slapstick is at a minimum and much of the humour derives from the complexities of mime.
But when the gags come, they are worth the wait: a swan literally swan-diving across the stage on her chest, a dancer pirouetting so fast she staggers dizzily across the stage, a misaligned extension that sends another dancer flying. Costumes, lighting and decor are all beautifully designed to accommodate the good, the bad and the outrageous.