Directed by Bess Kargman
A documentary about a ballet contest might not seem inherently dramatic or appealing to anyone that doesn't already follow the genre, but by diving into human stories, specifically those of young adults that have dedicated their life to the sport, Bess Kargman's First Position is an effective representation of determination and fortitude in an art form that has high stakes and few rewards. Focusing on the Youth America Grand Prix competition, Kargman follows a handful of students from various parts of the world as they rigorously train for their chance in the spotlight and, most importantly, an opportunity to showcase their skills for potential ballet schools and dance companies. Fourteen-year-old Michaela (a former war orphan from Sierra Leone) and 16-year-old Joan Sebastian (uprooted from Colombia to live and train in NYC) underscore the importance of dance in the lives of children that have come from so little. Miko and Jules Fogarty (aged 12 and ten, respectively) give viewers an opportunity to view a true "dance mom," as their mother rearranges their lives to accommodate their training, while 11-year-old Aran is an army brat that resides on a U.S. Air Force base in Italy, proving young boys can succeed in ballet, even if they aren't the stereotypical effeminate archetype. Rounding out the group of dancers is 17-year-old Rebecca, a privileged girl from Maryland that's the very image of a ballet student: beautiful and blonde, with a dancer's body. The film flips between the various children, highlighting their training methods and offering a glimpse of their personal back-stories, with the climax of the documentary being reached when the actual competition begins and we see how their training has paid off. Beyond the fascinating narrative and the dazzling performances shown on-screen, First Position is an examination of the optimism, inspiration and structure that the art of ballet offers this group of children. Included with the DVD are all of the full-length performances of the students during the Grand Prix, which the film could only show highlights of due to run-time constraints, making this disc an excellent addition to a ballet lover's DVD library.
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