Monte Carlo troupe makes merciless fun of the classics
New York — In Fokine's immortal solo ''The Dying Swan,'' the ballerina flutters about in the some of the prettiest tragic images ever conceived. The one thing she doesn't do is molt. That would be carrying the idea too far.
Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, which plays at the City Center through July 2 (followed by a tour of France in August and September), is in the business of carrying ideas too far. This all-male troupe are parodists of style, and so naturally, the first thingtheirmswan does is molt. Yet it must be admitted that ''Zamarina Zamarkova'' (as a comic ploy, the cast takes on names a la Russian ballerinas) sheds ''her'' feathers with utmost pathos, and that Fokine himself might have approved of the manner, if not the substance, of the act.
Like all good satirists, the ''ballerinas'' of the Trockadero are eager to sacrifice good taste to make a point, and they are especially eager to overstep boundaries if they feel that their model does also. Although the molting and heaving of Zamarkova's swan is an obvious exaggeration of what Fokine had in mind, it's also a criticism of Fokine's work itself. Corn is corn, and the more one laughs at the Trockadero swan, the more one must consider smiling over the original Fokine conception.
Similarly, the more one laughs at the outrageous bad manners of the dancers in ''I Wanted to Dance With You at the Cafe of Experience,'' the more one has to laugh at the serious ballets of Roland Petit. Petit, and his ilk, adore making shocking, verismo ballets about cafe life and the glamorous thugs who hang out there. ''Carmen'' was the model, and from there it went downhill to Petit. The Trockadero gangsters take the genre so far down it's on the way up.
Their cafe ballet issomverismo, so true to life in its vignette structure, that it's unintelligible. As in ''The Dying Swan,'' however, manner is all. The ballet's meaninglessness comes across with total aplomb and confidence. The cast - divided into ''Those Who Wanted to Dance'' and ''Those Who Didn't Want to Dance'' - treat one another very badly, but they do so with such matter-of-factness that we must believe that rudeness is as neutral as water. That's what Petit implies in his down-and-out ballets, and what the Trockadero exposes as foolishness.
The Trockadero also has heroes, among them the Russian choreographer Marius Petipa. In his honor the company has just staged its own version of ''The Pharaoh's Daughter,'' the ballet that first brought Petipa fame in 1862. The Trockadero revival shows everything that's right about Petipa through humorous exaggeration.
The choreography is hack, but one sees through it to Petipa's marvelous mix of classical and character dance. The story is ludicrous, yet as performed by the Trockadero dancers, all the mime passages in which the characters express their feelings in stock gestures are vivid and engrossing. The spectacle adored by Petipa is given both hilarious treatment - as when an obviously human lion prances about like a pussycat - and accurate treatment in truly elegant decor.
Just as the heart of Petipa's ballets is the ballerina, so is she the heart here, and seen in as many facets as Petipa would have contrived. First she's the innocent sprite, then a tentative adolescent in the first throes of love, and finally a resplendent bride. She is played by ''Tamara Boumdiyeva,'' whose fullness of spirit is as genuine as the real great ballerinas of our day. Despite the fact that she isn't a ballerina at all - she's a man - ''Miss Boumdiyeva'' is the most convincing Petipa heroine I've seen in a long time.