The name "Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo" says it all - toney, a little precious, pretentiously connected historically, with a thread of faux royalty running through it all.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will be in Salt Lake City for a one-night stand at the Capitol Theater, on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, $14 and $17, available at all Smith'sTix locations, and the Salt Palace box office.The Trocks, as the Les Ballets are irreverently known, have been a hit in America ever since 1974, when the company was founded to present a "playful, entertaining view of traditional classical ballet in parody form and en travesti," - which in this case can mean boys in girls' tutus.
These talented guys with the made-up Russian names have given their growing audience a lot of laughs since then, receiving more than passing attention from serious dance critics, who credit them with considerable genuine artistry and technical prowess.
The dancers are engagingly earnest in carrying out their aim - "to dance the full range of the ballet and modern repertoire, including classical and original works in faithful renditions of the techniques, manners and conceits of those dance styles." They could never be so funny, if they weren't partly serious.
If you haven't heard much about the Trocks in the United States of late, it may be because they've been out of the country. Their success abroad has led to repeated tours, including last season's 10th trip to Europe and a return to Japan for a fifth annual tour.
They have danced in festivals and numerous TV shows, such as a Shirley MacLaine special, a special at the Olympia Theater in Paris, and with Miss Piggy and Kermit on Muppet Babies. They've toured South America, Mexico, and Australia, and traveled eight times across Canada. In the United States they've hit 45 of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
As co-founder and artistic director of the Trocks, and the only remaining original member, Natch Taylor (also known professionally as Alexis Ivanovitch Lermontov) is the linch-pin around whom the operation now revolves. "I and this company have grown up together," said Taylor from his New York office. "Sometimes I think it's time to slow down, but something else keeps telling me not to. It's a fun job."
The Trocks' Utah program will include some new works they put together last summer.
" `In Kasmidia' (no deep meaning in this name, just a dancey sound) is a ballet by Ann Marie d'Angelo, who danced with Joffrey Ballet for 10 years," he explained. "It has a `light' spirit, it's about ballerinas crossed with fireflies, who like to dance with men. There's a lot of dancing, and it's fun for the audience, with a score taken from Delibes' `Sylvia.'
"We have a new Isadora Duncan piece by Lori Belilove, based on the Brahms waltzes Isadora danced in 1912, which we have twisted around to make our own," he continued. "Four of us learned the waltzes, and each has a different interpretation, so we do four different things, but within a framework."
Taylor himself has set "Gambol," a takeoff on Paul Taylor (no relation). Completing the program will be the pas de deux from "Don Quixote," and "Go for Barocco," inspired by Balanchine.
"We usually take 10 or 11 dancers on tour, and the company is in good shape," said Taylor. "We have had plenty of work, much of it abroad. Last year we did five weeks in Europe in the spring, Japan in the summer, and again to Europe for eight weeks in the fall. We did a number of small cities in France, a week in Brussels, a week in London, five cities in Holland.
"Hopefully we will go back to Europe next summer. When the price of the dollar goes down, we go to Europe; when it goes up, we stay home. With the cheap dollar it's more possible for several small theaters to get together and bring us over."
Taylor, who does some choreography, must walk a fine line in selecting Trock repertory. "We look outside the company for choreographers, and many people want to work with us, but they don't all work out, they don't strike the right vein of humor."
The Trocks' mode of operating is to learn a dance straight, then explore it. "We keep a certain rein on what we do, it's not a free-for-all, not mayhem from the beginning. You have to have firm ground to fall back on," he said.
"All our dancers have a comic instinct, they are willing to play with a dance and explore it, but there are limits they can't go beyond. I am there, I say you can't do this or that. It's very hard work, to learn ballets, then make them funny.
"Men on toe is serious business! I don't see any reason why they couldn't always have done it, if they had started young enough like girls do. Because they didn't, most of their feet are not stretched and malleable like women's, but I have a couple of guys who have gorgeous feet en pointe.
"Two of my dancers have been with us since 1980, two more for four years; the others are relatively new, two came two years ago, three came last summer. Some quit because they get tired of touring, they want to get a 9 to 5 job or steady performing job. They go to other companies, or quit dancing and open a restaurant. Others stay in different countries (some of our men are teaching in Japan right now).
"But I don't mind the turnover; it's fun watching people grow and develop performance qualities."