On June 4, dance into Pride Month with PBS' premiere of American Masters' Ballerina Boys, a documentary about the all-male comedic ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The film follows the legendary troupe on tour in the Carolinas—a focal point in the ongoing battle for LGBTQ rights—and culminates in a performance of Stars and Stripes Forever at the Stonewall 50th Anniversary Concert in New York City's Central Park. Unlike Balanchine's original choreography, the Trocks' version features a kickline, an homage to those that formed in protest against the New York City police during the Stonewall riots of 1969.
Founded by Peter Anastos, Anthony Bassae and Natch Taylor in 1974 as the gay rights movement grew, the organization broke barriers by becoming the first world-renowned ballet company to perform in drag. The Trocks have toured to cities large and small at home and abroad, drawing inspiration from Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, which brought classical Russian ballet to everyday audiences in the U.S. Though more than half of the Trocks' members were tragically lost to AIDS in the 1990s, the company continued, offering 150 performances each year. In 2017, the organization became the subject of the documentary Rebels on Pointe, which won the award for Best Canadian Feature at the Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival.
In Ballerina Boys, the Trocks' history is interwoven with original interviews, illustrating how the company continues to push for social justice, redefine gender norms and challenge conventions about how ballet should be presented, who can perform it and who deserves access to it. "Every time the curtain opens, we represent progress for equality," says member Kevin Garcia. "We just do it dancing."
Ballerina Boys is a production of Merrywidow Films, and was directed and produced by Chana Gazit and Martie Barylick. Check it out Friday, June 4, at 9 pm EDT, on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app.