Credit Icarus Films
On days when it seems there isn’t too much to smile about, grab a glass of wine and watch “Rebels on Pointe,” Bobbi Jo Hart’s playful documentary about the all-male comedy dance troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The cinematography isn’t the greatest, and the structure is hit or miss, but so what? In a movie this good natured, the heart is everything.
The performances are hilarious, but the dancing is no joke. As Gia Kourlas, a dance critic for The New York Times, points out, it takes exceptionally strong technique to merge classical choreography and comedy. Achieving what James Whiteside, a principal dancer for American Ballet Theater, calls “a balance between high art and clever camp” requires endless rehearsal and often physical therapy. Hoisting a 150-lb. man aloft is not for the weak-kneed.
Trailer: ‘Rebels on Pointe’
Born from the dust of the Stonewall riots in the 1970s (the name is a homage to the legendary Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo), the company was initially blackballed by financiers and quickly learned to survive on a budget. Leading us lightly through that history, the artistic director and the movie’s unofficial narrator, Tory Dobrin, describes the devastation of AIDS and the relief of creating a space where dancers could forge their own identities. Giving the middle finger to classical ballet was just gravy.
Filming for four years, Ms. Hart follows a handful of touching individual stories and takes us on the road (the Trocks, as they are known, are rock stars in Japan), a punishing travel schedule that gobbles up more than two-thirds of the year. Oxygenating almost every scene, though, is the men’s delight in being liberated from the gender restrictions of traditional ballet — a freedom that allows them to create art that’s uniquely their own.