Hupoy (right, as Alla Snizova) and Laszlo Major in "Le Corsaire." Photo by Zoren Jelenic, Courtesy Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Meet Carlos Hopuy, the Trock Who Will Put Your Pointework to Shame

One of the highlights of New York City's Fall for Dance Festival this year was an appearance by the Ballets Trockadéro de Monte Carlo, a company of men who dance on pointe with as much panache and style as any prima ballerina. Their performance of Paquita was funny, of course—they specialize in comic renditions of classical ballets— but also bracingly well executed. The star of the evening, Carlos Hopuy, aka Alla Snizova, was simply astonishing. His pointework sparkled, his hops on pointe were clean and strong, and he looked like he could have balanced in attitude forever. There was something deeply exciting about the way he combined delicacy and control with the explosive power and steel of a man's physique.

Hopuy, who was born in Havana, Cuba, and trained at the country's famed National Ballet School, has been with the company since 2012. Like all the Trocks, he has both a female and a male alter-ego: when he's not portraying Alla Snizova, he's Innokenti Smoktumuchsky, a dopey cavalier. He is also one of the dancers featured in the upcoming documentary Rebels on Pointe, which will have its theatrical release November 15. I recently caught up with Hopuy, who, when he's not on tour, lives in Orlando with his husband Paolo Cervellera, a former Trock. We spoke by phone, in Spanish.



Did you always want to dance?

I always liked ballet. My mother, Norma Hopuy, was a principal with the Ballet de Camagüey. I used to hang around the rehearsals. She started giving me lessons at home. Then, when I was nine, I auditioned for the National Ballet School. I had the choice between that and gymnastics and I chose ballet.

When did you start going on pointe?

When I was 11. I would ask my classmates for their old pointe shoes and would try them on at home. When my mother realized that I liked to go on pointe, she started training me and bought me my own pair.


Was your entire pointe training done at home with your mother?

Yes, all of it. She got it right away and never asked me why. She knew she had the ability to help me, and so she did.

Did you ever get to dance on pointe in Cuba?

Actually, I got to dance on pointe at my graduation performance. My teacher created a version of Sleeping Beauty for me in which Carabosse went on pointe, and even did fouettés.



Was the idea of a boy dancing Carabosse on pointe accepted at the school?

At first the authorities at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba didn't want me to do it because they couldn't understand why you would have a man on pointe. They organized a separate audition for me, to see if I was really ready. There were rumors that there was a kid at the school who could dance better on pointe than a lot of the women at the Ballet Nacional. So the four "Jewels of Cuban Ballet" [Loipa Araújo, Aurora Bosch, Josefina Méndez and Mirta Plá] came to audition me and confirmed that yes, I was good enough. But it created a lot of controversy.

Why weren't you taken by the Ballet Nacional?

They said it was because I was too short [Hopuy is 5'5"], but I think the dancing on pointe was also a factor. There was a bad feeling about it in the air. After graduating, I spent six months at home, doing nothing, because the Culture Ministry said I was a young talent who had been formed by the Revolution and my talent was too great for me to dance in any other company than the Ballet Nacional. So they wouldn't let me leave the country. Finally, they allowed me to dance with a company run by Laura Alonso, Pro Danza.



How did you get from there to the Trocks?

I went to Costa Rica with official permission and danced with the National Ballet of Costa Rica for four years, in traditional male roles. Then, a friend invited me to Mexico to dance Coppélia. I went, and then I decided to cross the border into the U.S. illegally. At the time it was not so difficult for us Cubans to stay the U.S. I spent four years at Ballet San Antonio, and then I reached out to the Ballets Trockadéro. I auditioned, and the same day, I got a contract.

One of the striking things about the Ballet Trockadéro is that the company spoofs ballet, but at the same time, all the dancers are tremendously good at the very thing they are poking fun at.

Yes, the jokes are built into the ballets, but the technique is always present. When I dance, I'm serious about what I'm doing. It takes just as much rigor, or even more, to do what we do. And I think that making people laugh is even harder than making people cry.

What do you enjoy most about the ways the Trockadéro rep tweaks the repertory?

What I like is that it doesn't take it all so seriously; it takes that tremendous pressure that exists in traditional companies down a notch. In traditional ballet, people get so upset if even the slightest thing doesn't go right. At Trockadéro we feel bad, but not as bad.

The company in a 2016 performance of "Paquita" at the Joyce Theater. (Hopuy enters at 2:07.)

Do you also enjoy dancing traditional male roles from time to time?

I do. There is something so explosive; the dynamic is different. I still do a few things here and there.

Where do you take class?

In New York, I go to Nancy Bielski's class at Steps on Broadway. And in Orlando, I take class at Central Florida Ballet.

Have you ever thought about teaching a pointe class for men?

I would love to. It's an idea I have for the future: a ballet school just for men.


Photo by Zoran Jelenic, Courtesy Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

When you go onstage, do you feel like you're dancing yourself, or a character that you've invented?

Part of it is me. I have to put all my love and all my effort into it so that it will look natural. But another part is the ballerina. That ballerina is part of me, but she's not there all the time. When you put on that wig and those eyelashes this other part, that you like to explore, comes out.

Like Wonder Woman!

Yes. The superhero is there, but she only comes out sometimes.

Latest Posts


Dean Barucija, Courtesy Lopes Gomes

Chloé Lopes Gomes Speaks Out About Racial Harassment at Staatsballett Berlin

In November, the French dancer Chloé Lopes Gomes went public with accusations of institutional racism against Staatsballett Berlin, first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. In the article, several anonymous dancers confirm her account. Lopes Gomes, 29, who trained in Marseille and at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, danced for the Ballet de l'Opéra de Nice and Béjart Ballet Lausanne before joining Staatsballett Berlin as a corps de ballet member in 2018, under then co-directors Johannes Öhman and Sasha Waltz. After the company told her in October that her contract, which ends in July, would not be renewed, she shared her story with Pointe.


I didn't know I was the first Black female dancer at Staatsballett Berlin when I joined the company in 2018. I learned that from German journalists who came to interview me almost immediately. I grew up in a mixed-race family—my mother was French, my father from Cape Verde—and I was educated to believe that we all have the same opportunities.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Kylie Jefferson (center, back) in "Tiny Pretty Things" (Sophie Giraud, courtesy Netflix)

Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things” Faces Ballet Stereotypes Head-On

The pilot of Netflix's dance-centric series "Tiny Pretty Things"—based on the YA novel by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton—will leave you breathless. It touches on, well, everything: love, murder, racism, competition, jealousy, girl cliques, sexual experimentation, eating disorders. And the intricate plot is propelled by equally breathtaking ballet sequences.

Here are the basics of that plot: The Archer School of Ballet is the premiere conservatory in Chicago. During the first three minutes of the episode (no spoilers!), star student Cassie Shore is pirouetting along the edge of the roof of the school when she's pushed off by a hooded man (Her boyfriend? A jealous lover? A ballet master or choreographer?) and dies. Neveah Stroyer, who'd previously been rejected from the school, is flown in from L.A. to replace her.

While the series can verge on melodrama—the pilot does open with a dancer being pushed off a roof, after all—its depiction of the finer details of the ballet world feels spot-on. That was paramount to the production team. "We wanted the dancers to feel represented in their athleticism, and in the sometimes ugly business of making something beautiful," says executive producer Jordanna Fraiberg. "The show encompasses the grit and sweat, before it's wrapped up in costumes and makeup."

Catch "Tiny Pretty Things" streaming on Netflix Monday, December 14.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP

Are You Competing for the Right Reasons?

As a 17-year-old student at The School of American Ballet, I had little awareness of ballet competitions—and to be fair, at that time (the early 1990s), there weren't very many. Youth America Grand Prix and its many spawns did not yet exist, and the famous international events like the Prix de Lausanne seemed highly elite and out of reach. But I did participate in one competition (similar to today's YoungArts), open to high school seniors, in which a fairly nonjudgmental system gave competitors level rankings instead of numerical scores. In other words, there was no single winner; the emphasis was on having an educational experience and interacting with peers from around the country.

Even so, it was still a competition, and although I rehearsed my variations diligently, when it came time to perform at the event, I felt drastically underprepared. Unsure of how to properly warm up, fuel and pace myself, I was blinded by insecurity among the other dancers, who seemed so confident and mature. I hadn't even considered my goal—why was I doing this? Needless to say, I did not dance my best and came home demoralized, mad at myself, regretful and slightly embarrassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks