After the comfort-food programming of December, January tends to kick off with prestige offerings and new works. So it was unusual that the first dance show I saw in 2023 featured timeworn ballet standards like “The Dying Swan” and “Paquita.” These warhorses were being performed by the Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, however, so they were not exactly pablum. And to be fair, I caught the Trocks in the third week of their run at the Joyce Theater; so this was, in part, feel-good holiday programming. But though the Trocks have been affectionately spoofing ballet en travesti since 1974, the jokes still feel fresh. That’s the beauty—and a flaw—of ballet: it really hasn’t changed all that much since the days of the Sun King. The dance world, however, has altered dramatically since the Trocks’ inception. Men have begun to don pointe shoes in mainstream companies and schools, and I wondered if the Trocks’ mockery would read as dated now. But their zany wit is as evergreen as the classics they were satirizing. And though the foundation of their humor is the fact that they are men on pointe, it is not the end of it. They don’t just demonstrate how silly men look in pointe shoes and tutus, they show how silly everyone appears in pointe shoes and tutus. Their thesis is that ballet itself is ridiculous, and they are quite right. But they make their point with love, joy, and dedicated craftsmanship.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in “Swan Lake.” Photograph by Zoran Jelenic