Metro Weekly

Bobby Carter is On Point with Les Ballets Trockadero

For 30 years, Bobby Carter has been dancing with the all-male ballet comedy troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Robert Carter as Yuri Smirnov - Photo: Zoran Jelenic
Bobby Carter as Yuri Smirnov – Photo: Zoran Jelenic

“We market ourselves as all-male,” says Bobby Carter, a longtime member of the New York-based Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. “And yes, we are, for the most part, what one would consider drag queens, because we do use the modalities of dressing as women to emphasize the characters that we’re portraying.”

Carter is quick to point out, however, that “the drag [is] an element of what we do, but it’s not the reason, and it’s not the main focus.”

He continues: “I always have to stress that we are first and foremost a ballet company. Yes, we all happen to be gay — I’m not necessarily trying to out my colleagues, but not many people join this company in search of doing the male roles.” At that, Carter can’t help but let out a hearty laugh.

Carter has quite the history with the troupe affectionately nicknamed Les Trocks, launched fifty years ago in a tiny loft in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. After training for a few years with the Robert Ivy Ballet in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, Carter joined his cohorts on an overnight trip to see Les Trocks perform upstate in Greenville. He was only 11 at the time.

“I don’t think my mother had a full understanding of what it was I was going to see,” Carter says of the overnight trip, which inspired “a running joke” among his classmates.

“I had always had a fascination for the pointe shoes, and would always beg off old pairs from the girls, the ones that I could fit. And so the running joke was that they were going to pack me up and send me off to Trockadero. Little did we know how true that joke would become.”

It would be another ten years before he joined Les Trocks after initially pursuing a conventional dance career. “I went to train at Joffrey Ballet School,” he says. “And then I was briefly at Dance Theatre of Harlem before I joined Trockadero.

“As a young Black man trying to get into the dance world,” he continues, “my mother’s fear was that this would just ruin my reputation and ability to be accepted in a more legitimate setting. When I joined, it was seen as kind of a potential mark on your career.”

That’s no longer the case. The troupe is venerated for its poise and polish, not to mention supple, adroit comedy. “We are now a viable career option for young dancers,” says Carter. “We have some guys that have joined with us, and this is the only job that they have had and will probably ever have in dance.”

Carter, who came out as gay when he was 16, says his mother and family eventually came around to understanding him and appreciating his work.

“Well first of all, I’m a mamma’s boy, so she would get over it eventually,” he says. “But she’s my number one fan.”

As part of its 50th Anniversary season, Les Trocks returns to the Kennedy Center, which bills the troupe as “the world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company” offering “top-notch ballet that’s also uproariously funny.”

Carter doesn’t put much stock in the fact that he’s not just the senior member of the troupe, but also, having just celebrated another birthday, well past the age of retirement for most ballet dancers. “I don’t feel 49, whatever that’s supposed to feel like,” he says. “I am not slowing down, I’ll put it that way.

“The old adage, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it,’ it’s true,” he continues. “And it doesn’t matter what age you are. I just know that at this age, I cannot sit around for a month off between work doing nothing, and then jump back into the studio like it was last week. I can’t do that.”

Carter will be featured next weekend in “The Dying Swan,” which he calls “the quintessential solo. And so I guess it’s only fitting, me being the senior member of the company, dancing this piece. It starts out, like any other ballet solo, very soft — the music is very pretty — but you get the chance to really explore the nuances and the fun of the character in the throes of pathos and dying.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo perform Thursday, April 4, and Friday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 6, at 1:30 p.m., in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $29 to $139. Call 202-467-4600 or visit

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