For the young dancers at the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions, lifelong dreams are at stake. With hundreds competing for a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, practice and discipline are paramount, and nothing short of perfection is expected. The film follows six young dancers as they prepare for a chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries while navigating the drama of adolescence.
Review by Louise Keller:
The hunger, sparkle and potential are some of the judges' determining factors that make or break dancers competing at the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. Bess Kargman's involving fly-on-the-wall documentary follows six talented young dancers in their quest to make it in the competitive world of professional ballet. Hopes are shared and dreams expressed during this uplifting journey in which we become involved in each of the dancers' lives. As a consequence, we have a stake in what happens and are often moved as a result of the drama and tension.
In a tried and true format, we meet each of the dancers in their own environment and get to know who they are. Although they are totally different and come from vastly different backgrounds, they have several things in common: talent, work ethic and family support. Each story has its own dramatic curve and emotional payoff, but perhaps it is Michaela Deprince's story that is most affecting. Adopted from a Sierra Leone orphanage by a Jewish couple, after experiences no child should have to suffer, Michaela's dream was ignited when she saw a photo of a beautiful ballet dancer in a pink tutu on the cover of a magazine. Watching joy painted on Michaela's face as she dances onstage, is one of the film's most beautiful moments.
When we watch him dance, we can understand why 11 year old Aran's ballet coach tells us dancers like him are a rarity. As we watch this son of a navy doctor living in Italy, we can sense we ware watching a star of tomorrow. 16 year old Joan Sebastian carries all the pressure of his family from Colombia, who he will be supporting, if successful. Sitting down with his family in Cali after a year away, enjoying traditional Ajiaco chicken soup, is clearly meaningful.
Mike and her younger brother Jules have their own story, propelled by their ambitious and dedicated mother. Last but not least, is Rebecca, the beautiful blonde cheerleader with talent, looks and an ability to flex her body at extraordinary angles. Her parents shop at Tiffanys, too.
Like Spellbound and Mad Hot Ballroom, Kargman structures the film as a crescendo in which the New York Finals provide the climactic moments. There is much riding on the event and results, when careers are secured by scholarships granted. But it is not only the dancers who may be richer as a result; we, the audience feel privileged to have come along for the ride.
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FIRST POSITION (G)
CAST: Documentary featuring the Youth America Grand Prix dance competition
PRODUCER: Bess Kargman
DIRECTOR: Bess Kargman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nick Higgins
EDITOR: Bess Kargman, Kate Amend,
MUSIC: Chris Hajian
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 11, 2013