The company now known as the Polish National Ballet has an august history, tracing its origins to 1785. Its fortunes, like those of Poland, darkened greatly during and after World War II, but in recent years, as the country has become a member of the European Union, the ballet troupe has worked to rejoin, and catch up with, the rest of Europe.
The success of that effort was evident on Tuesday, when the company made its New York debut at the Joyce Theater. Since 2009, it has been under the direction of Krzysztof Pastor. He is Polish but spent many years with the Dutch National Ballet before becoming that group’s resident choreographer in 1998, a position he still holds. The program he brought to the Joyce suggests that he has transformed Polish National into something quite like Dutch National: a standard European contemporary-ballet troupe.
The dancers are attractive, agile, limber and fully equipped for contemporary ballet’s technical demands. Mr. Pastor’s two works on the program, though, are thoroughly competent but not very interesting. His “Adagio & Scherzo” is set to a recording of the second and third movements of Schubert’s great String Quintet in C. The choreography responds to the music and its changing moods but without much subtlety: When the scherzo kicks in, the previously downcast and yearning dancers suddenly grin and bounce about.
In a program note, Mr. Pastor takes pains to specify that he is not telling a story, as if semi-abstraction were not the default mode of contemporary ballet. “Adagio & Scherzo,” a work for four couples, does hint at a love triangle at times, but its predictability is less narrative than structural.
Mr. Pastor’s “Moving Rooms” is more angst-ridden, trapping its cast in the contemporary cliché of squares and bands of light. The music — Henryk Gorecki’s Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra, and, especially, sections from Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso — remixes Baroque and classical modes with more astringent modern ones, and Mr. Pastor does a bit of the same, with ballet steps and a splash of tango.
“Rite of Spring,” by the Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat, is more distinctive. It’s a kind of stunt, hearing in the ritual sacrifice of Stravinsky’s score the ritual of a crowded dance floor in which three women and two men engage in the Möbius-strip partnering of salsa and swing dancing. This reading of the score, if perverse and diminishing, is almost entirely persuasive — as it was when Mr. Gat’s company first brought the work to New York in 2006.
The Polish National Ballet will continue through Sunday at the Joyce Theater; 212-242-0800, joyce.org.
A version of this review appears in print on June 18, 2015, on Page C4 of the New York edition with the headline: Bringing Poland Into Step With the Rest of Europe.
Brian Seibert, 06/17/2015