Looking Fabulous at 40, and Still Happy to Step on a Few Toes

Brian Siebert, New York Times
Posted on

Paul Ghiselin of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performing as Ida Nevasayneva in “Dying Swan,” one of the pieces featured in this all-male company’s program at the Joyce Theater. Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

At the Joyce Theater on Thursday, a Russian-accented voice announced the absence of Natalia Notgudinov, among other changes in the program, but also said that all the ballerinas were in “very, very good moods.”

Why shouldn’t they be? Their all-male troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, is looking fabulous at 40. And the second program of its anniversary season in its home city is at least as good as the first.

“ChopEniana,” its parody of Michel Fokine’s “Chopiniana,” or “Les Sylphides,” is one of the company’s funniest pieces. The pratfalls and generic physical jokes — one ballerina knocking down another, sometimes by accident — are fail-safe, yet the satire of Fokine’s ballet blanc is also exactly on target. Sergey Legupski (Giovanni Goffredo) is hilarious as the dreamer-poet, spaced-out in a narcotic-seeming reverie, and Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) earns as many laughs struggling to stay ethereal with an absent-minded partner.

The “Dying Swan” of Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin) is, like the opening announcement and the fake Russian names and fictional program bios, well-honed shtick. Even if you’ve seen this molting demise too many times for its comedy to be fresh, Mr. Ghiselin, who has been with the troupe since 1995, makes you chuckle in admiration.

The pas de six from “Esmeralda” is less surefire. The teased hair, tulle and tambourines of the Gypsies are amusing, as are the efforts to get the heartbroken Esmeralda to quit her moping for more stereotypical Gypsy behavior. But the humor is spread thinly. Araf Legupski (Laszlo Major) and Nina Immobilashvili (Alberto Pretto) dance well enough to disappoint: They suggest the highest standards without quite meeting them.

“Don Quixote” could also be funnier, yet it’s hard to imagine this troupe offering a prettier Kitri (“the prettiest girl in the village”) than Yakatarina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey). Mr. Johnsey, with advanced technical skills and winning verve, can top a fought-for balance with a charming shoulder roll. Kitri’s final duet with her lover, Basil (Paolo Cervellera as Vyacheslav Legupski), radiates with a glow of true romance.

Most of the humor in “Patterns in Space,” a sendup of Merce Cunningham, is supplied by the two onstage musicians, who take John Cage’s instrumentation to delightfully absurd extremes: paper bags, Bubble Wrap, kazoos. The choreography, for three dancers in velour bodysuits, is accurate but insufficiently exaggerated.

“Patterns,” made in 2003, could have been created in 1974. The Trocks, as they’re known, have always been more antiquarian than up-to-date, but is there nothing more recent they could fall in love with enough to lampoon? If not, that may be a more damning indictment of ballet’s present than any historian’s ballet-is-dead pronouncement.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo continue through Jan. 4, 2015 at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; 212-242-0800,

New York Times