Molting in the 5 O’Clock Shadow of a Dying Swan

Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times
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Lob more tinsel at the tree. Give that dreidel a hectic extra spin. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is back at the Joyce Theater, where it opened on Tuesday night. And none too soon.

Watching the Trocks, as they are lovingly known throughout the dance world, one is transported back to the starry old days of ballet when dancers were joyously triumphant when they knocked off an extra pirouette or two and when the old ballet chestnuts were performed wholeheartedly.

Perhaps, too, the thrill of the Trocks’ shows has to do with men realizing the impossible dream of being ballerinas, complete with silly Russian ballerina stage names, tutus, loaf-size toe shoes and very good dancing

Happily, the humor these days, in this 30th-anniversary season, has less to do with satire than with the incongruity of these men in tutus. They do not impersonate women. They dance as women, goodheartedly and sometimes seemingly lost for a moment in a poignant fantasy of beauty. (Spindly male partners are called upon when necessary.)

Tuesday’s program was fascinating for the insights it provided into familiar 20th-century ballets and to 19th-century works that are no longer performed. But you didn’t need to be a balletomane or even an adult to enjoy the performance.

Given the level of technical expertise, balletomanes are likely to be surprised when two sylphs suddenly collide in “Les Sylphides,” staged by Alexander Minz after the Fokine original. It stars Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter), Margeaux Mundeyn (Yonny Manaure), fireplug-shaped virtuoso dancers, and the primly competitive Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) and a narcoleptic Pavel Tord (Bernd Burgmaier).

The collisions, the dancers’ goofy names, and jokes based on the original sylphs’ gestures of listening and murmuring to one another are genuinely funny. But this is a truly poetic “Sylphides” that in one gesture suggests the influence of Isadora Duncan, who toured Russia several years before this ballet. Insights like that are rare in more ordinary productions.

New Yorkers have seen the “Pas des Odalisques” from “Le Corsaire,” but probably not the underwater scene from Petipa’s “Humpback Horse,” a 19th-century ballet that is as good as lost now. Kenneth Busbin’s lavish, exquisite costumes for “Horse” recall photographs of early productions, and the male ballerinas look surprisingly like the hefty early female ones. Mmes. Dumbchenko and Supphozova were joined in “Odalisques” by the gracious Colette Adae (Jason Hadley). Fifi Barkova (Manolo Molina), a fierce little sweet pea, nearly stole the show as the Gold Fish.

George Balanchine gets his due in “Concerto Barocco” (in the Trocks’ “Go for Barocco” version) and a fairly straightforward “Tarantella,” performed with all the right brio by Svetlana Lofatkina (Fernando Medina Gallego) and Vladimir Legupski (Lionel Droguet). Vera Namethatunova (Scott De Cola) and Gerd Tord (Mr. Burgmaier) were the sisterly stars of “Barocco,” which unfolds, Balanchine-like, with the high-speed weaving and unraveling of a cat’s cradle.

Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin) was the molting bird of “Dying Swan,” a classic solo so campy that it’s hard to send it up. But Mme. Nevasayneva was touching when she tried to reattach some of her many falling feathers. The show ends with surprise final curtain calls that should not be missed.