LGBT people have a complex relationship with humour and that is because we’re the butt of the jokes. We see this in scenes with the Les Ballets Trockadero. In one scene, Shirley MacLaine introduces the troupe on television and she basically starts snickering through the said introduction. We never know if she’s laughing with them or laughing at them. But Bobbi Jo Hart’s engaging documentary Rebels On Pointe does the former. She brings out the humour in the Trocks, an essential part of the troupe’s ethos. And she does that while balancing it with the seriousness that comes with ballet.
The troupe’s full name is Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all gay male troupe. They emerged from the post-Stonewall Riots era of New York. They have survived the AIDS crisis, a disease that took many but not all of its members. The documentary focuses on some of the dancers and choreographers of that generation as well as the ones after it. Some of the film’s taking heads include dancers from all over the world, depicting their familiar but resonant survival stories. Even the dancers new to the company get to talk, telling the camera of their travels with the troupe.
Hart also lets the work speak for itself capturing them both in rehearsal and performances. We see them sell their comic renditions of revered classic pieces. She shoots them both directly and from above, making their gags apparent. And back to humour, there’s this impression that humour is sloppy. Hart and the dancers prove the opposite, showing that funny takes skill. We can be armchair critics when we see acting or singing, but dance is another beast in itself. Every extension is precise and elegant, and Hart, as we should, notes of every nuance of their movements.