First Position ****

First-time director Bess Kargman’s entertaining documentary follows six young dancers, aged eleven to seventeen, as they compete at the prestigious ballet competition, the Youth America Grand Prix. It seeks to show the true depth of passion, talent and drive that it takes for children to reach such a level of ability in ballet dancing. Issues such as stage mothers, eating habits, the effect of dance on academic pursuits, and racism are all touched upon as Kargman delves into each child’s individual life and their personal struggles. Every dancer comes from a unique cultural and financial situation and yet they all impress with their great determination, charisma and prowess.

First Position is exceedingly enjoyable because it allows the personality of each dancer to shine through. However, while Kargman touches on the many issues that face young dancers in such a competitive field, she fails to do more than scratch the surface and in doing so ends up glossing over what could have made the film truly poignant. It is a feel-good movie with beautiful dancing, but it lacks enough depth to be a truly successful documentary. (Rose Finlay)

  • First Position
  • USA 2011
  • Starts July 4
  • Directed by Bess Kargman
  • Writing credits. Documentary
  • Cast: six dancers including Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora
  • Length: 95 minutes