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Interview: Theatre Life with Robert Carter

Robert Carter

Today's subject Robert Carter has, for the past 21 years, been living his theatre life as a member of the world famous all-male comic ballet troupe known as Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. That makes him the longest running member of this internationally known troupe.

Some of his character portrayals include Olga Supphozova, who was found in a KGB lineup, and Yuri Smirnov who ran away from home to join the Kirov Opera because he thought Borodin was a prescription barbiturate. Just from reading that, it's quite obvious the "Trocks" isn't your average ballet company.

Despite the Trocks poking fun at ballet, Carter insists that the dance is always front and center in their shows. You will be able to see this firsthand on March 21 and 22nd when the Trocks leap into the Kennedy Center's Opera House.

It's guaranteed to be a fun time, and the opportunity to see the longest running Trock in action is an added bonus. Robert Carter proves that when you have a job you really enjoy, you can live your theatre life to the fullest forever.

Where did you receive your dance training?

I began training at the age of seven and a half in Charleston, SC at the Robert Ivey Ballet School. I then attended a Joffrey Ballet summer program in NY and was hired for a company in Florida that has since folded. I went to Dance Theatre of Harlem, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. I also worked for two years at a hotel just to pay the bills.

Are you an original company member of Les Balletes Trockadero de Monte Carlo ?

No, the company was founded in 1974 which makes it one year older than me.

Les Balletes de Trockadero take on Swan Lake. Photo by Lois Greenfield.

Can you please give us a brief history of the company?

It sprung out of a few guys who were ex-dancers. Ballet dancers were still considered superstars back in the 70's. They started putting on midnight ballet shows to parody the big names in NYC's Lower East Side. The timing was important. It also came out of the Stonewall movement. Charles Ludlum also had a role in one of his plays for a gay ballerina. 42 years later, and here we are.

What are the qualifications for becoming a Trock? Does having a dance background help?

First and foremost, we are a ballet company. Experience with ballet is a definite plus. It is important that they get along with everyone in the company during rehearsals and performances. It's diving into the deep-end when we tour so everyone figures out how to cope with the responsibilities. It's all about personalities. Hardworking and nice people are what we look for, first and foremost.

How often do you change your program?

It's entirely up to my boss. It depends on the venue and if we've been there before - we don't want to have a repeat. We try to keep the same program for awhile because of our heavy touring schedule though.

Along those lines, what can audiences expect to see when the Trocks come to Kennedy Center?

Expect to see superb dancing and a lighthearted look at ballet that glorifies the old-world style.

Robert Carter as Olga Supphozova. Photo courtesy of the company's website.

You've been with the Trocks for 21 years now. Are you able to take other work in between Trock performances or is it really a full-time job?

It is and always has been a full-time job. I have been more than fortunate as a dancer that I have been able to maintain full-time employment with one company. It gives me lots of freedom that you don't get anywhere else.

As the longest running Trock, what are some of your fondest memories of working with the company thus far?

Having the awesome experience of going to the centennial festival in Monte Carlo and getting to meet Princess Caroline at a big gala certainly ranks as among the biggest.

Special thanks to Kennedy Center's dance publicist Brittany Laeger for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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