The Carpenter Performing Arts Center presented a valentine for both novices and aficionados of The Ballet. The joyous work of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo on February 3, 2024 showed not only the remarkable technique of the dancers, and the notable historically accurate choreography, but the subtle and often riotous sense of humor of the performers unafraid to try a little well-placed slap stick.

The program began with Swan Lake, a Lev Ivanovich Ivanov classic. A piece every traditional ballet company should have in its repertoire.  In one of the notable sections of the ballet, the Grandest of Swan Prince Siegfrieds, Araf Legupski (Andrea Fabbri) slowly entered, sans music, and made his way haltingly across stage. Walk, walk point, pose… walk, walk, point, pose. He finally got to center, and as we held our breath waiting for him to start his variation… he looked around for just a second, and then without notice, grandly walked off the stage, inserting the valued element of surprise.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - "Swan Lake" - Photo by Sascha Vaughan.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – “Swan Lake” – Photo by Sascha Vaughan.

Next, to spice up the “endless” mime conversations, the petite Swan Queen, Colette Adae (Jake Speakman) absolutely and brilliantly tore up the stage with remarkable point work, fabulous turns, and outrageous courage in her fearless flight into the arms of her prince. It was clear, the prince was primarily chosen for his legendary beauty and ability to catch his wayward swan in mid-air. The corps, so beautifully rehearsed, and well positioned, were only to be tested by Von Rothbart, the evil wizard, and Benno, “just” a friend of Siegfried. However, the girls of the corps solidly stayed in formation, until the wily Swan Queen knocked over a few, making sure none of the them stole her thunder.  For those who were there, this joggled the memory of the Ballet Russes, with its abandon and deadly competition.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - "Swan Lake" - Photo courtesy of the Company.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – “Swan Lake” – Photo courtesy of the Company.

After the first of the brief intermissions, came an important ballet entitled; “Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet” with music by the ever beloved, Frederick Chopin. Its lyrical choreography by Peter Anastos lurched its way into the classic throwback of all the piano ballets we have ever seen…ever. Beginning with the classic male dancer Chip Pididouda (Shohei Iwahana) soulfully doing a kind of pas de deux with the piano. He soon outdid his dance capacity and finally limped off stage. Then with unique breathtaking lurches and lunges, a pas de deux ensued with Grunya Proazova (Salvador Sasot Sellart), a’la Tamara Toumanova, in her flowing empire purple frock, designed by Mike Gonzales. Her partner the premiere danseuse, Mikhail Mudkin (Raydel Caceres) in red, filled the stage with nuances, dips and pitches. Forward and side, they struggle for supremacy in a hilarious romantic and emotional dance for two. Proazova, choking her partner, takes off on her own in a tour de force character dance…running, bourree-ing, then resting, then jerking, and finally slap dancing off stage. Not to leave the stage un-manned, our premier danseuse, Mudkin with Ludmila Beaulemova (Trent Montgomery) in orange and the second ballerina, Holly Dey-Abroad (Felix Molinaro del Paso) in green, Mazurka’d together on stage. The colorful final coupling ends in twirling, flinging of bodies, promenades and spins… with saute’s and runs to Les Sylphides engaging music …thus ending this uplifting experience.

Another break:

Then came Tarantella, a tour de force by Varvar Laptopova (Takaomi Yoshino) and Timur Legupski (Jake Speakman) both amazing technicians with more than enough energy to go beyond exhaustion. Both a joy to watch, it harkened back to NYCB, Villella and McBride. Laptopova and Legupski, looked like they could have gone on forever. The audience seemed to understand what it took and gave them a rousing send off.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - (Dying Swan" - Photo by Roberto Ricci

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – (Dying Swan” – Photo by Roberto Ricci.

Then, on a blackened stage with a few lost spotlights attempting to find something;  the long awaited hit, the Dying Swan, heartbreakingly danced by Olga Supphozove (Robert Carter) bourrée’d on. With undulating arms, her imminent demise was quite evident by her molting feathers dripping from her “wings” and flouncy tutu with every gliding step…til finally…it came, her last squawks of life.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - "Paquita" - Photo by Zoran Jelenic

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – “Paquita” – Photo by Zoran Jelenic.

And for the Finale, a Big Ballet to finish the evening. Petipa’s Paquita, brilliantly staged by Elena Kunikova, well known authority on Russian classical ballet. Paquita is a ballet that is not often done around these parts. The amazing tightly rehearsed corps filled the stage with a sumptuous array of costumes and décor by Mike Gonzalez. The jewel toned tutus of violets, pinks and oranges, with the proscenium grandly draped with red curtains fastened with a large gold medallion added to the elegance of the evening. The Cavalier, Mudkin charmed us with his cheeky partnering, variations and mis-steps, interrupting the perfect lines of the corps .  But the pièce de resistance was the Prima Ballerina, Nadia Doumiafeyva (Phillip Martin-Nielson). Her miraculous Coda was the execution of 32 single and double fouette’s (whip turns on point)…which made the audience jump to their feet, realizing this feat is more than most can do normally, in particular a male on point.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Group ballerina - Photo courtesy of the company.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Group ballerina – Photo courtesy of the company.

It was a full evening of exhilaration for the dance, the history, and love of movement with tongue-in-cheek mishaps that will last in our collective memory. If one wants the exuberance of that experience…do not miss Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo.


For learn more about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, please visit their website.

To learn more about the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, please visit their website.

This article was edited on 2/12/24 to correct a costume designer’s name.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Swan Lake – Photo by Roberto Ricci.