Movie Review: 'First Position' -- 3 stars
Documentary by Bess Kargman
Initially, the documentary "First Position" seems like it's just another "competition doc" - the latest in a long, tired line of nonfiction movies centered on the participants in some sort of contest. But Bess Kargman's movie, about the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition, is imbued with a seriousness that sets it apart.
That's because the Youth America competition represents more than child's play for the film's subjects, who range in age from 9 to 17. A prestigious, selective showcase attended by representatives from the major ballet academies and companies, Youth America in many respects signifies the last, best chance for a competitor to be set on a path toward a career in this most elite and challenging of arts.
Every dancer profiled by Kargman, from 11-year-old Navy kid Aran to Maryland high schooler Rebecca, understands this and feels the weight, the pressure that comes with it. The movie reflects the tension in its steadfast, concentrated focus on its well-chosen subjects' extraordinary talents and their preternatural gifts for relentless hard work. With companies routinely shedding dancers, it's harder to make it in ballet than ever before. This isn't child's play, and the filmmaker never lets you forget it.