Rebels On Pointe (MiFo Film Festival)
"Rebels On Pointe" is a very affectionate profile by award-winning Canadian documentarian Bobbi Jo Hart on Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an American all-male (and proudly openly gay) ballet company corps, which parodies the conventions and clichés of romantic and classical ballet. Harte adopts a cinema vérité approach with her very entertaining film, takes us not just behind the scenes of the corps practicing and on stage during the performances, but also follows them on the road as they tour the world.
The film covers the company's history, which now spans an impressive 43 years, having been formed in post-Stonewall N.Y. In its early days, the company gave late-night cabaret performances in a loft in the meatpacking district. Its current Artistic Director, Tory Dobrin, started as a dancer in 1980 with the company, and is now looked upon as a father figure to his international coterie of young performers, for whom he creates a safe and comfortable working environment. It is Dobrin who explains how the Trocks -- as they are fondly known -- strive to achieve the diversity that has always been missing from traditional ballet companies.
At first, they were shunned by all the grant-giving foundations, so they have always had to run a very tight ship in order to survive, especially in the toughest times. This included when the AIDS pandemic hit NY hard, a time, Dobrin says, that was "really really horrible for the company." In fact, his own partner, another Trocks member, was one of the people they lost. Debris, however, maintains that the upside of surviving that period was that he sensed a freedom to lose any remaining inhibitions so that they could dance exactly as they really wanted to.
Watching the current troupe perform, one cannot fail to be suitably impressed by their talent and prowess as they pirouette around the stage with the same elegance as any prima ballerina. Playing all the roles in each ballet makes it a little tough on the dancer playing the male role (and having to lift a heavier than normal ballerina). While they have can and do perform their ballet with grace and precision, it is the humor that they include that wins them faithful audiences who love the fact that they make these classics so much more accessible.
The dancers themselves are an utterly charming group of men of different shapes and sizes -- and ages, too. Like any collective of gay men that are together for so much of their day, they have bonded like a "logical family," so much so that by the time The Trocks celebrated their 40th Anniversary, they had three married gay couples in the company. Their stories add a delightful emotional to strand to the film that has you rooting even more for the continued success of the company.
Strangely enough, the standout oddity of the movie was the presence of an overly-earnest Scottish dance critic with her pronouncements about the Trocks and the state of ballet in general. These were atypical from the type of commentator who rather pompously and rather patronizingly tries so hard to intellectualize art, that it unintentionally comes over as being quite hilarious.
In the history of the burgeoning LGBT community, The Trocks have deservedly become one of its founding institutions, and it is obvious from this compelling documentary that the reason they are so revered is because not only do they look so hot in tutus and perform like devilish angels, but their irresistible passion for dance and life, in general, comes across when they are off stage, too.