The question about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has long been: how seriously should we take the dancing? This male ballet troupe, affectionately known as the Trocks, is certainly comic, but these men in point shoes are also good enough — technically, stylistically — that you want them to be better.
“Laurencia,” the New York premiere on the troupe’s Tuesday opening-night program at the Joyce Theater, isn’t very funny. As faithfully staged by Elena Kunikova, it’s an excerpt from the finale of a 1939 Soviet ballet about a peasant revolution in Spain. The Trocks forgo the story in favor of Spanish styling and the classical variations that come with a ballet happy ending.
Just about the only joke in the piece comes when Paolo Cervellera — playing the male lead, Frondoso, as Viacheslav Legupski (every Trock has both a male and a female persona, each with a delightfully fake Russian name) — winds up for a big solo and the peasants scurry out of the way. The joke is about the space-eating, bravura male style of the original choreographer, Vakhtang Chabukiani, but Mr. Cervellera doesn’t have nearly the power to make it work.
Though they are too small for the Soviet ideal, Boysie Dikobe (as Andrei Leftov) and Carlos Hopuy (as Innokenti Smoktumuchsky) give a better showing of male fireworks. In the Trocks the best men tend to be the little ones.
But male style has never been the troupe’s forte. Roberto Forleo (as Marina Plezegetovstageskaya), in a solo of tiny runs on point, shows how lovely its female manner can be. Yet while Robert Carter (as Olga Supphozova) attacks the female lead and its many fouettés with verve, his performance is more a feat of strength than of grace.
In all, “Laurencia” feels too close to the performances of the mediocre touring companies that the Trocks are meant to parody. Fortunately, the remainder of the program is filled with old favorites. The second act of “Swan Lake” brims over with loving jokes about ballet conventions and the layerings of men behaving like women behaving like men.
Mr. Forleo makes a wonderful Odette. His line, his turnout, his charming smile and his way with slangy mime strike an ideal balance between comedy and beauty. He earns his bouquet (delivered on Tuesday by a more conventional ballerina, New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns).
In “Black Swan Pas de Deux,” Chase Johnsey (as Yakatarina Verbosovich) is a marvelously sultry Odile, so glamorously fierce that you fear she might consume her Prince, the tiny Mr. Hopuy. Between Mr. Johnsey’s fouettés and Mr. Hopuy’s gasp-inducing whip-around jumps, the pair could credibly appear at an ordinary ballet gala.
In Peter Anastos’s “Go for Barocco,” a durably witty sendup of George Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco” and his thrust pelvises and daisy chains, Raffaele Morra (as Lariska Dumbchenko) has comic trouble with Balanchinian speed, while Mr. Dikobe (now as Sonia Leftkova), precise and light, comes closer to pulling it off, and with panache. Mr. Anastos’s composition can survive a topical insertion of the “Gangnam Style” dance just fine.
Paul Ghislein’s “Dying Swan” (performed as Ida Nevesayneva) is by now classic, serving the same function as that piece often does in conventional ballet troupes — a showcase in which an aging star can show her age yet triumph against it. This one is more surefire, though, both because Mr. Ghislein is great and because it’s already an excellent joke.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo run through Jan. 6, 2013 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 242-0800, joyce.org.New York Times