A happy coincidence found Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo back in Southern California dancing "Les Sylphides" and "Raymonda" divertissements just after the televised American Ballet Theatre performance of the former ballet on Friday--and just before the live Ballet Theatre performance of the latter here next week.
It's axiomatic that to parody a style, you have to understand it. Certainly the Trockadero casts in Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College on Saturday highlighted choreographic elements that Ballet Theatre dancers often flatten out: the pantomime elements in Mikhail Fokine's neo-Romantic "Sylphides," for example, and the caractere attacks needed in the suite from Marius Petipa's "Raymonda."
Yes, of course, they highlighted these elements through outrageous comic exaggeration. Yet the irresistibly horsy Dame Margaret Lowin-Octeyn (a k a Tory Dobrin) of the Trockadero can give lessons to Ballet Theatre's vacant technician, Cynthia Harvey, in how to dance Fokine so that it looks different than Petipa.
In Fokine's "The Dying Swan," Doris Vidanya (alias Patrick Kelly) pushed every authentic rippling arm motion and anguished grimace beyond the limit, just as the Raymonda, Natalia Schmaltzova (or David McCarty to his draft board), provided a terminal overdose of all the ridiculous temperamental hot-cha we foolishly mistake for Russian classical style.
Beyond questions of style, however, lurked a continuing Trockadero fascination with dance glamour--especially evident in the new "Three Dances of Ruth St. Denis," since choreography here proved less crucial to the experience than an intimidating dancer personality.
Thus the vigor-unto-dementia of Yurika Sakitumi (Anthony Rabara) in "Siamese" and Olga Supphozova (Robert Jayne) in "Kashmiri Nautch" somehow wasn't enough to catch the flavor of the original high priestess of modern dance. No, it took the languid stalk and attitude of unapproachable spiritual grandeur of Delilah Razzmatazzmova (Otis Daye) in "Incense" to give Miss Ruth's communion with the mystic East full weight as a satiric target.
"Go for Barocco" shook the pedestal of another dance icon--George Balanchine--in both its outlook (the smug sisterhood of the daisy chain) and choreographic structure (every fugal entry in a Bach score relentlessly reflected).
Since Balanchine's death, choreographer Peter Anastos has disavowed the work as merely a lampoon of inessential facets of Mr. B.'s neoclassicism--but he's wrong. Like the best of the Trockadero repertory, this uproarious ensemble ballet looks into the style of its source--and, again, into the distinct aura surrounding the female dancer--with a pertinence that only the best serious performances can match.