First Position Movie Review

Like the engaging hit documentary Spellbound, this dance competition film gets under the skin and holds us in its grip like a well-crafted thriller. As young dancers face incredible odds in a competition that will decide their future, we feel like nervous parents watching from the wings, cheering them on and agonising over every wobble. Yes, it's impossible to watch these kids' stories without being deeply moved.

Every year, more than 5,000 teens and pre-teens enter the Youth America Grand Prix, which brutally whittles competitors down to only 40 who will get jobs or scholarships with a dance company. Filmmaker Kargman follows six young dancers with distinctly different stories. Jules (10) and his sister Miko (11) are both gifted but have very different feelings about the rigours of competition. Aran (11) is in a military family that moves all over the world, which makes it tricky to keep his studies consistent. Joan (16) is a prodigy from Colombia whose mother has given up everything to help him pursue his dream of dancing in the Royal Ballet. Michaela (16) was orphaned in Sierra Leone's civil war, then adopted by American parents and now faces racial issues in the ballet world. And Rebecca (17) is under massive pressure from her parents.

To get this far, these kids are already the best in the world, naturally gifted athletes and artists who have more than pure talent: they have the drive to succeed at the top of their profession. So as the film follows them through their shockingly tough preparations, we can't help but fall in love with each one. We also meet their teachers, friends and parents, all of whom devote themselves to helping them succeed (Miko and Jules' dad comments that his children work longer and harder than he does). And all of them have big issues in their pasts that would stop anyone who was less ambitious from going any further.

Kargman assembles this into a driving narrative that builds emotional momentum on the way to the big final competition, which is simply breathtaking. The film is sometimes a bit nice and cute, avoiding these young people's darker or quirkier sides, but it's skilfully shot and edited to keep us tightly gripped. And the climactic scenes are thrilling as we see these gifted dancers overcome injuries and mistakes to blossom under enormous pressure.

Rich Cline

Cast & Crew

Director : Bess Kargman

Producer : Bess Kargman

Starring : Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty, Jules Jarvis Fogarty, Michaela Deprince, Gaya Bommer Yemini, Flavio Salazar

Comments

First Position Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: U, 2011

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

Horns - Trailer

Following the mysterious death of his girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), Ig Perrish (Daniel Redcliffe) wakes up from with a...

Horns Trailer

'Foxcatcher' Leads Almost Went To Ryan Gosling and Bill Nighy

Foxcatcher, the psychological drama from the supremely talented Bennett Miller, is without doubt one...

'Foxcatcher' Leads Almost Went To Ryan Gosling and Bill Nighy

Barbra Streisand - The Way We Were with Lionel Richie

Ahead of the September 2014 release of Barbra Streisand's duet album 'Partners', Lionel Richie talks about the...

Barbra Streisand - The Way We Were With Lionel Richie Video

'The November Man' Is Nothing More Than An August Dud

The November Man? Pfffft - Roger Donaldson's latest movie deserves to be nowhere near the penultimate...

'The November Man' Is Nothing More Than An August Dud

Kongos - Lunatic Album Review

Bursting out the stereo with the glitzy stomp of opening salvo 'I'm Only Joking' and 'Come With Me Now', Kongos at first appear to be...

Kongos - Lunatic Album Review

Ariana Grande - Break Free - Live on the Honda Stage at the iHeartRadio Theater LA

Ariana Grande performs the song, 'Break Free' live at the Honda Stage at the iHeartRadio Theatre...

Ariana Grande - Break Free - Live On The Honda Stage At The Iheartradio Theater La Video

Jack White - I'm Down (Lyric Video)

The lyric video for Jack White's country music song, 'I'm Down' has received a lyric video. The song has been recorded as part of...

Jack White - I'm Down (Lyric Video) Video

Frasier's 'Niles Crane' Joins Cast of CBS Drama 'The Good Wife'

In his first television role since the conclusion of Frasier in 2004, David Hyde Pierce - who...

Frasier's 'Niles Crane' Joins Cast of CBS Drama 'The Good Wife'

Joan Rivers Stable But Critical, Stopped Breathing During Surgery

Joan Rivers, the 81-year-old comedienne, is in a stable but critical condition in hospital...

Joan Rivers Stable But Critical, Stopped Breathing During Surgery
Advertisement