Robert, A Spiritual Trock

our human collective

Dance performances can be boring. Not so when one watches the Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo. The company is comprised of dancers who happen to be all men. They perform the classics. They dance in toe shoes, tutus and tiaras. While the dancing is beautifully executed, they don’t take themselves too seriously. The ballets are played with lots of humor. The Trocks are not boring.


Robert Carter is a vintage member of the cast. He has been with the company for over 20 years. I, like him, believe there are no accidents. We connected and I photographed him at the theater and with his husband in New York. He speaks openly about human rights and expresses his passion for what he believes in. As a gay Christian black man married to a white Muslim man he has experienced first hand the judgments of those that fear what they don’t understand and he remains true to himself. They have a communicative and loving partnership.



First and foremost Robert wanted me to know that he is a spiritual person. His mom was and still is his champion. She was one of 9 children from Greenwood, South Carolina. When she stood in the fields picking cotton she knew she wanted more for her children. She got her wish. Robert travels the world doing what he loves and she is there loving and supporting him all the way. I believe that without her, maybe he would have had a different outcome. As a young child, he was clearly “different”. Fortunately. the theater is a community that embraces young people that are more “colorful”. Not so much at school. He was bullied and spent much of his time alone until he went to music and dance class where he thrived.


He made it. He joined the Trocks in NYC when he was 20. He lived his dream. His mom got it, his dad not so much. It wasn’t until he saw that Robert did not live in a hovel, and was able to pay his way, did he accept that this was his career, and a good one. Validation. Real strength comes from our own self-love and approval but that primal need to seen and appreciated by our parents is pretty strong.


6 years ago Robert met Elmez. Elmaz was 35 and had been living a not so open life. He had had two arranged marriages. He came from a culture that didn’t embrace “different.” Dutifully he tried to live what was expected of him. He loved his wife and children but he was not being true to his heart. His parents were in the process of arranging a third marriage when they met. Elmez was outted. His family and children no longer wanted anything to do with him. 5 years later when he was in the hospital for a serious heart condition his mother came around, a little. His children are coming around.  But here’s the gift…both Elmaz and Robert are happy.  Elmaz’s health is at times fragile. There are many unresolved issues with his family but they have each other and live an authentic life.  I think these photos of the two of them tell a beautiful story. I wish them lots of love and happiness together.



Robert made it clear to me that he will hang up his tights before he has danced one too many Swan Lakes. He plans on remaining a Trock, and mentoring the newbies as he has performed almost every role in the repertoire. He volunteers with Sage, the largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults. He also works the Ali Forney Center whose mission is to protect LGBTQ youths from the harms of homelessness and empower them with tools needed to live independently.


I’d like to thank Jill Kratish from the Parker Playhouse, the Duncan Theater, and Tori Dobrin artistic director of the Ballet Trockadero De Monte Carlo for giving me the opportunity to photograph the company and make new friends.



  1. Donna W

    Love, Love, LOVE this story! Beautiful and powerful photos. So happy they found one another ?

    • Lisa Nalven

      Yes, this is a love story. It started out as a dancer profile and became a love story. :-))) Thanks. L

  2. Nadia

    OMG! I LOVE THEIR STORY! Thank you for bringing to light how beautifully designed and uniquely inclined these men are. 

  3. ina

    Loved this story. Very happy for them and pray for continued heath for Elmaz

    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Ina. :-))) Prayers are always welcome.

  4. Michael

    Brilliant photographs! Great story…

  5. Robert

    So beautifully done! Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful venture.❤️

    • Lisa Nalven

      Thank you and Elmaz for trusting me. Who knew this would be as much a love story as your dance journey. I’m very grateful for having met you.

  6. dena

    These blogs are amazing and enlightening. Your love of people is contagious!  Keep it up, Lisa!

  7. ellen

    As always, full of personality, beauty and a real sense of the human behind the pictures. Thank you Lisa..

  8. Ellen

    My fabulous friend Lisa……❤️❤️❤️??????

  9. lisa sergio

    love this story, and LOVE the photos….amazing…both…  

  10. Tiffany

    Hard to pass up a great love story, that part is without question amazing (coupled with what they’ve both overcome).  It is also hard to overlook that your insight into shooting dancers is unparalleled.  Makes me wanna blow the dust of a tutu!  Well done, everyone!!!

  11. linda kraus

    Beautiful and inspirational. Love and love and love. 


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is a Portrait Photographer who specializes in people, floral art and capturing our collective humanity