Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for First Position


USA, 2011
Running Length: 94 minutes
Cast: Miko Fogarty, Jules Fogarty, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Aran Bell, Michaela DePrince, Rebecca Houseknetch
Director:  Bess Kargman
Cinematography: Nick Higgins

Reminiscent of Spellbound and last year’s Jig, First Position follows the formula of these films as it follows a group of young ballet dancers as they compete for the coveted Youth America.Grand Prix.

One of ballet’s most prestigious competitions, the Grand Prix puts dancers between the ages of 9 and 18 in front of judges representing many of the world’s great companies and schools.  As well as medals and awards, the prizes include scholarships and company positions.

The film follows several young hopefuls through their preparation and competition.  The dancers are at different points in their careers.  Aran is just eleven while Rebecca is about to graduate high school.  Joan Sebastian has travelled from Colombia to New York to pursue his dream and make his family back home proud.  Michaela is an orphan from Sierra Leone who is determined to dance despite the dance world dismissing black girls as being too muscular and athletic for ballet.  Miko and Jules have a mother whose dedication to their dancing is almost frightening to watch.

All the dancers are articulate and manage to express how much ballet means to them, and how much winning a prize in this contest would mean to them.  Alongside the dancers, we see the parents and teachers and get a sense of the enormous cost and sacrifice they have to make for their children to follow their dreams.

While there is nothing particularly new or innovative in the style or structure of the film, it’s engaging.  The dancing is beautiful and well shot, even in the rehearsal studios.  The dancers the director chooses to focus on are talented and personable and it’s easy to root for their success.  The contest itself gives the film its dramatic focus.  It’s clear the director – one a dancer herself- has a great affection for and understanding of her subject and this is part of what gives the film its unique charm.


  1. I saw a ballet movie once. It was terrible. (Comment brought to you by Grumpy Cat. I actually liked it.)

    (Actually, Black Swan makes two.)

  2. It sounds like a film I'd enjoy. Like many young girls I wanted to be a ballet dancer as a child and still dream about being dainty and graceful en pointe on stage, sigh.

  3. I really enjoyed First Position -- those young dancers are so inspired and inspiring! it reminds me of Mad Hot Ballroom, only for ballet :-)

  4. It sounds like a documentary. It's petty frightening how much money and dedication it takes for a child to be a ballet dancer, or be an Olympic competitor in gymnastics or ice skating. And considering their careers are over around 30, it's hard to understand ... but I guess art is art.

  5. It's weird how ballet movies always manage to sound interesting, even though I"m not into ballet. Go figure.

  6. I'm always amazed at the dedication it takes to reach those height, and I'm sure I would be easily sucked into this movie.

  7. It sounds well crafted and interesting. The first part of the post that caught my eye was a female director.

    Well reviewed! (And btw, I love your profile picture!)