While Rebels on Pointe isn’t landmark cinema, it does give you a charming introduction to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
For the uninitiated, the Trockadero troupe are many things to many people. They began as a subversive and scrappy little outfit of gay boys who were told they couldn’t dance ballet because it was too feminine. And they certainly couldn’t do it with other men. And they wouldn’t dare to disrespect the majesty of ballet by doing it in drag. Well, they flouted every one of those taboos and transformed ballet in the process.
For a time, Trockadero was to ballet what the Harlem Globetrotters were to basketball — too talented in technique and execution to dismisss as an insult, and too tongue-in-cheek to gain acceptance in the gilded palaces where theatergoers would turn up their noses at the impertinence of making fun of the high art that ballet has become.
Documentarian Bobbi Jo Hart does a serviceable job of taking audiences behind the scenes to meet a handful of the dancers from different corners of the globe, to see how they were first ridiculed and shunned in their pursuit of the dance, and how fiercely each of them doubled down on the endless and excruciating hard work it takes to become a professional dancer in ballet.
There are moments of whimsy and a few tearjerking moments, but for the most part it’s a tale of survival (especially considering the wide swath AIDS cut through their ranks through the firs decades of the epidemic) and camaraderie, as members of the company seem to take comfort in the show-biz family they’ve made and understand well that when you’re on the road 200 days a year, getting along has its merits.
But for me, the realization that this highbrow art form (and it’s considered much more so than Broadway musicals) is a place where gay men toil often but rarely in the spotlight. And once again, unlike film or stage, the Trockadero dancers are not a sprinkling of gay guys among an LGBT-friendly operation. They are as out-and-proud as it gets, and their triumph is not only that they’ve thrived over some very lean times. When they began, they were seen by ballet lovers as an abomination who would never attract anyone outside a bohemian gay clientele. Now children are often seen in their audiences, because parents recognize that the lighthearted approach the Trocks take to their work is precisely the introduction young people need to not feel intimidated by the complexity of the programme. They are a national treasure, and responsible in no small part for boosting conventional ballet while providing a wildly entertaining show of their own.
Last modified: July 23, 2019