Focusing on the artistry and camaraderie of a dance troupe many would be inclined to dismiss as a long-running gag, Bobbi Jo Hart’s Rebels on Pointe introduces New York’s Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male ballet company whose performers usually dance in drag. Less performance-centric than it might have been, the straightforward documentary consists largely of talking-head testimonials and interviews with current Trockadero members about how they spend their too-brief time offstage. Friendly but less colorful than one would expect, the film will play best with the group’s most devoted fans, mostly on small screens.
The doc’s first task is to explain to newbies that, despite their jokey choreography and irreverent attitude, the “Trocks” are serious about their craft and have smart things to say about dance. New York Times critic Gia Kourlas praises their skill; James Whiteside, principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre (who seems to half-wish he were a Trock), claims not to understand “how they do it so well.” And Scottish journalist Mary Brennan argues that, as they put on tutus and lace up their slippers (but pointedly do not hide their chest hair), the group’s dancers “use their masculinity to say something about femininity.”
Current artistic director Tory Dobrin and some of his performers sketch out the history of the group, which originated not too far from the Stonewall Inn in the years following the riots there. Over more than 40 years, the group has been a safe space for openly gay dancers who were mocked elsewhere — and has defiantly channeled mockery in other directions.
But defiance is hardly the mood of the Trocks circa 2017, as the group is celebrated around the world (they’re huge in Japan) and certain gay rights seem here to stay, no matter how Attorney General Jeff Sessions may feel. Though some of the young men currently dancing may have seen their share of bullying as kids, most seem to have come of age in a largely tolerant world. Chase Johnsey offers a cute story about coming out to his mother — realizing in the middle of the night that he simply had to reveal himself, only to hear “You woke me up for this?!” Mom had known for years, was cool with it, and had to work in the morning.
Johnsey’s colleagues, like Charleston, South Carolina, native Robert Carter, have similarly supportive families, and while the doc does observe some personal trials (having nothing to do with sexual orientation), it seems most interested in the freedom this generation of Trocks has to have its relationships recognized legally. At one party, Dobrin celebrates the fact that there are now three marriages in the troupe. For a team that kept on dancing through the darkest years of the AIDS epidemic, that has to be especially gratifying.
Distributor: Icarus Films
Director-screenwriter-director of photography: Bobbi Jo Hart
Editor: Catherine Legault
Composers: Jann Arden, Corey Hart