Nina Enimenimynimova (Long Zou) in 'Stars and Stripes Forever'
Nina Enimenimynimova (Long Zou) in 'Stars and Stripes Forever' © Costas Cacaroukas

Critics like to point out that the Trocks have real ballerina chops, only to add that we shouldn’t expect to see the en travesti dancers at Lincoln Center anytime soon. This year, neither assertion proved quite true. For a few of these drag ballerinas, it’s a wonder they can balance on the tips of their banana feet. Others — in particular, Nina Enimenimynimova (aka Long Zou) — could appear at American Ballet Theatre tomorrow, and not in the corps either.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo takes comic advantage of both extremes, the stevedores in tights and the men of exquisitely “feminine” grace. The 44-year-old ensemble has survived the demise of a century of Russian-ballet mania because it is not above slapstick or below lovingly reprising a 19th-century treasure typically only salvaged for parts. For comedy the 15-member troupe mines everything within reach — and for the best pieces everything altogether.

Programme A’s Swan Lake, Act II, for example, features slapstick: the Swan Queen sends the Prince’s pipsqueak sidekick Benno sprawling simply by pivoting in arabesque, her leg a handy boom. Also parody of classical ballet conventions: in a nod to the long walk a danseur noble takes to the far corner before grand turns and jumps, this Siegfried simply walks. Plus commentary on the story and characters: Odette’s rush to tell the prince how he can save her right now (dammit) makes her almost as opportunistic as the evil sorcerer’s tool, Odile. On Programme B, ChopEniana’s romantic Poet isn’t simply dreamy, he’s sleepwalking. The more invested in the peculiarities of the source, the better the Trocks’ take.

In the grand Russian tradition, the ballerinas remain thoroughly themselves no matter the role. Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter) never loses her rictus grin, which conveys terror and menace in equal measure. Fastidious Nina Immobilashvili (Alberto Pretto) remains steadfastly irritated at the inadequate male help. And the gently stymied Eugenia Repellskii (Joshua Thake) — incapable of a sharp look or angle — blurs before our very eyes.

The news this year is the reprise after 15 years of the fabulously decked-out Stars and Stripes Forever, after Balanchine’s 1958 bubblegum-bright ode to marching band maestro John Philip Sousa. In the Balanchine, the dancers flung their legs like Rockettes, executed gymnastic tricks and pranced on pointe like stewardesses of the friendly skies. There is hardly room for parody. But choreographer Robert La Fosse might have tried skewering the happy American boosterism. After all, the dumb patriotism Stars and Stripes celebrated has never done gays or other outliers any favours. At least the flag that dropped in the closing moments might have been the rainbow kind. No luck.

★★★☆☆

To December 30, joyce.org

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