Les Trocks dance in T-Day at QE

Tutus and toe shoes for Vancouver's Unnaugural Ball

From America, with love. Photo: Zoran Jelenic

While U.S. President Donald Trump found himself hard-pressed get any A-list entertainers or foreign dignitaries to celebrate his inauguration, Vancouver culturati scored on both fronts by hosting Les Ballets Trockadero – America’s high-camp ambassadors of gender-bending ballet pastiche – over the historic T-Day weekend.

The D.C. observances and those in YVR could hardly have been more dissimilar. Trump started his day with a prayer service led by a Texas “Christian” pastor who’s denounced all gays as “detestable, unclean, abominable,” and harbingers of the ““inevitable implosion of our country.”

In Vancouver, Les Trocks’ gala was blessed by religious luminaries of another kind: our local Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Their bifurcate wimples towered over the full-house crowd at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. In the intermissions, Sister Mary Q – full beard cascading to meet the dense chest hairs of her décolletage – graciously posed for “selfies” with lobby bar patrons.

But, for all their incongruities, Trump and Les Trocks share a few points in common: a penchant for over-the-top flamboyance and glitzy gaucherie. And a convention-flouting instinct to épater les bourgeois.

Not to mention a certain kinky Russophilia. It reflects in the stage names the cross-dressing ballerinas have coined for themselves (accompanied, in the program notes, by spoof bio-sketches): “Nina Imobilashvili,” who starred in the Pas de Six from Cesare Pugni’s Esmerelda, or “Alla Snizova,” the heart-throb of Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote. 

The Trockadero divas, however, abound in one quality that Trump conspicuously lacks – iron discipline. La Belle “Snizova,” for instance, is actually Cuban-born Carlos Hopuy, who trained long years in Havana’s rigorous Escuela Nacional de Arte before joining Les Trocks; while the aforementioned “Nina” is Alberto Pretto, who trained in Monaco’s Academie de Danse Classique.

Show-stealer of the evening, however, was “Ykatarina Verbosovich” (a.k.a. Chase Johnsey of Florida), who, in a dozen years of Trockerie, has developed something of an ornithological specialty. She played both the Swan Queen in Tschaikovksy’s Swan Lake and the eponymous Dying Swan in Saint-Saëns's Le Cygne.

You never know what to expect from her. In mid-arabesque, she can suddenly flash the audience a disarming schoolgirl grin or break into a flurry of jerky avian tics. She can top off the most elegant port de bras with a jaunty thumbs-up or a fist pump. Her pirouettes could end in pratfalls, or she could bounce back from a belly flop to an entrechat.

In the Saint-Saëns solo, she impeccably recaps the pathos of classic Anna Pavlova moves, all the while shedding a duvet-full of feathers from under her tutu. And then she concludes with an eye-batting curtain-call bow – more like an elaborate salaam or kowtow that ends up with her forehead pressed to the stage, two hands stretched out before her, aligned with her toe shoe, still frantically gesturing for the audience to keep on clapping.

And the Vancouver crowd was happy to oblige for a good long 10 minutes.

Compare that with the grim “Lord of the Dance” goose-steppers at Trump’s D.C. inaugural ball.

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