Fiddler on the Roof, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. The 1965 Stein-Harnick-Bock musical offers a generous, Tony-laden, three-hour tribute to a lost world. But what stands out in this touring production, last here in December 2000, isn’t the folk wisdom of Tevye, a tradition-minded milkman and father of five. It isn’t even his comic confrontations with threatened change. It’s the way the dances mark every important turning point in the tale. Whether it’s the carefree improvising that informs the daughters’ “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” Tevye’s covetous shenanigans in “If I Were a Rich Man,” the hopeful fusion of hora and cossack dance in “To Life,” the tradition-smashing couples waltzing tentatively in “The Wedding Dance,” or the doleful processional that empties Anatevka forever, Jerome Robbins’s choreography charts a disappearing world in its seemingly eternal circles.

Seventy-eight going on 30, Theodore Bikel is inexhaustible–after playing Tevye for so many years, he is the character on the cellular level, equally adept at stand-up patter with God and anguish over losing his daughter. Maureen Silliman plays the unswerving Golde with flinty, fussy precision, her love all the more impressive for thriving on so much habit. All the matches make sense, especially Eileen Tepper as eldest daughter Tzeitel and Michael Iannucci as the self-effacing tailor whom love makes a mensch.