Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, at 40, at the Joyce Theater
The men of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo — and in this troupe, that means everyone — are comedians and dancers. But perhaps even more essentially, they are aficionados of their art. Their sendups of ballet conventions show the close attention of true fans and are rendered with such love that, while they are always entertaining, they aren’t always especially comic. The comedy can be a mask for serious aspiration and ballet-nerd connoisseurship.
In the 40 years since the company was founded in New York, as its technical standards have risen and the culture of the country around it has grown less rigid about gender and sexuality, this enacted fandom has distinguished the Trocks from your average drag act. At the Joyce Theater on Tuesday, the company celebrated its anniversary true to form, with the debut of a 19th-century curio.
This was “La Naïade et le Pêcheur,” originally choreographed by Jules Perrot and staged here by Raffaele Morra after a Bolshoi version. Mr. Morra, in his alter ego of Lariska Dumbchenko, takes one of the title roles, the water nymph who falls in love with a Sicilian fisherman, Matteo (Ihaia Miller, as Mikhail Mypansarov). The comedy, such as there is, arises from gentle exaggeration: the silly head tilt added to Matteo’s skipping entrance.
Mainly, though, this is one of the less parodic pieces. Its mild pleasures are the well-rendered period details, especially in the ensemble sections, and the light and clean dancing of Matteo’s girlfriend, Giannina. This role is played by Nadia Doumiafeyva (Philip Martin-Nielson), who despite her name needs no favors: She has technique and grace aplenty.
That’s true as well of Alla Snizova (Carlos Hopuy), whose rendering of the pas de deux from “Le Corsaire” was, save for some wobbles in her fouetté turns, exemplary. Her partner, Araf Legupski (Laszlo Major, who joined the troupe in September), is a marvel, an especially buff ballet buff with spectacular male technique. I wonder what he’s like as a woman.
This program, the first of two this season, opens with two Trock classics. “Go for Barocco,” a Balanchine parody, remains the wittiest work in the repertory, all dance jokes and timing. “Swan Lake, Act II” is more slapstick, with jokes about weight and hyperbolic expressions of gender, though it, too, is funnier if you know the original well.
Playing the tragic swan-princess Odette is Olga Supphozova, the alter ego of Robert Carter, who has been with the company nearly 20 years. That’s a remarkable career for any ballerina, but the longevity is even more striking and inspiring considering that the very idea of such a ballerina, the idea of the Trocks, might once have inspired nothing more than smirks.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo continues through Jan. 4, 2015 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; 212-242-0800, joyce.com.New York Times