Film Review: REBELS ON POINTE (directed by Bobbi Jo Hart)

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by Dale Reynolds on November 30, 2017

in Film


This drag documentary has been winning  plaudits and awards this year. And well it should. Bobbi Jo Hart’s 90-minute exploration of the internationally-known drag ballet company, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (affectionately known as The Trocks) is both a hoot and a revelation.

Ms. Hart’s cinéma vérité documentary explores forty years of drag ballet — Rebels on Pointe being the first-ever on this subject — exploring The Trocks’ history and celebrating the all male, all-gay, drag ballet company founded in the early 1970s (and still very much alive, performing 200+ performances around the USA and the world — 500 cities in 30 countries, so far).

Known colloquially as “gender fuck,” bearded, hairy-chested, large-armed men in tutus showed-off a radical re-think of gender and the roles dished out to citizens. The Company was an instant hit with gays and lesbians, followed soon by balletomanes of both genders and multiple (one may quietly guess) sexual orientations.

Hart’s doc covers a dozen or so of the current members of the fold, uncovering how the men get along with each other and their relationship to their fans. Some subjects include a former dancer turned artistic director (who lost his Latino lover in the Company to AIDS), and three couples who have actually married (will wonders never cease!?).

It’s homespun, mostly, with acknowledgement of what it took to build this venture into an international sensation, including trips to Tokyo (where they have a huge fan-base), Paris, London and their home in Manhattan. It’s a sweet documentary, drawing many laughs at the carefully-choreographed mayhem they shine in, satirizing the world of classical and modern ballet.

I first encountered them in the early 1980s on their first visit to L.A. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where 3,000 paying audiences were regaled with a voice-over opening speech:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, you will be happy to know the dancers are in a good mood, but that Olga Tschiboomskaya will not be performing tonight as she is in a Paris hospital in a demi-coma” (Dame Lowin-Octane is, unhappily, no longer in the Company).

This kind of high-brow humor in low-brow clowning earns the pure gut-level laughter from we who know wherefrom this kind of goofiness springs. The full ballets are taken more seriously these days as these men in toe-shoes doing the furious Échappé sur les pointes, sweet Pas de bourrée couru, and a Jeté en avant, grand have the basic understanding of pure technique married to the inner dancer-soul it takes to make it work so brilliantly.

On that one level, the movie is uninhibited fun – watching a corps de ballet dancer dissing another while being a swan on the ground or handling the Spanish fan in the Don Quixote snippet or nearly knocking down another ballerina while doing a thousand-fold Fouetté en tourants – that never gets old and will make you want to buy the DVD/Blu-ray when it comes out early next year, for intense re-watching.

For now, catch it in a theatre near you, with another balletomaniac if you know one, marvel at how professional it all is, and guffaw when something deliberately goes “wrong.” You’ll love it!

photos courtesy Icarus Films

Rebels on Pointe
Icarus Films
Adobe Productions International
Canada | 2016 | 90 minutes
in limited release November 15, 2017

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