Filmmaker Q&A: REBELS ON POINTE Director Bobbi Jo Hart
The Calgary International Film Festival Selection REBELS ON POINTE is a can't-help-but-smile story, which brings us to New York and beyond. We reached out to Director Bobbi Jo Hart to ask some questions about the creation of the film and what we can expect when it hits the festival on September 30 and October 1.
Can you briefly summarize what your documentary is about?
REBELS ON POINTE is the first-ever cinema verite documentary film about the notorious Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo -- the all-male drag ballet company founded in 1974 in New York City on the heels of the Stonewall riots.
How did you first learn about this story?
The company came to perform in Montreal four years ago and I was fascinated by an ad I saw in the newspaper. I called Tory Dobrin, the Artistic Director, to see if I could film alone backstage for research and he said OK -- and funny enough, that footage I shot became the opening scene in the film!
What's one new thing that you learned when making this film?
I learned that men can absolutely ROCK when dancing on pointe!
Can you share a behind the scenes story from filming?
There is a scene in the film that was shot in Edinburgh, Scotland -- when a little girl walks on stage to give the "prima ballerina" a bouquet of flowers (then something hilarious occurs!). Most people don't know that it was my daughter Phoenix (who happened to be travelling with me on that shoot and helping as a little assistant). It always makes me smile when I'm travelling to present the film at the many festivals, to see her smiling face up there on screen. The dancers were so kind with her and took her under their wing, as the Trocks are really like one big, travelling family!
Sometimes thought of as old-fashioned or elite, the style of ballet captured in REBELS ON POINTE is definitely not what most people think of when they hear the word ballet. How do you describe the style of dance that the company performs?
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo perform a brilliant parody of Russian Imperial Ballet. They bring to life many Russian ballets that are impossible to see anywhere else, but do so with impeccable technique (all dancers are classically trained at some of the world's best ballet schools). My sister and her husband took their three teenage kids to a show in Oregon and they all absolutely LOVED it. You walk away in awe of their talent but also with a huge smile on your face for having been so incredibly entertained!
The troupe and some of the central characters in the documentary see their style of ballet as a form of gay activism. How does dance become a political statement for them?
The Trocks definitely have brought a gay sensibility to the world since they started touring in 1974. I mean, the fact that they are men dancing in drag and that they happen to all be gay is already a political statement and act of rebellion... in a tutu!
What do you hope audiences take from this film?
I hope that audiences walk away feeling more connected to the characters not only as phenomenal dancers but as relatable human beings -- as we all share the same universal characteristics of having dreams, family, highs, lows, looking for love or just a deep desire to be accepted for our unique identity.
REBELS ON POINTE plays on Saturday, September 30 and Sunday, October 1, and Bobbi will be in attendance at both screenings to answer any other questions you may have. The festival kicks off on September 20!