First Position

The last dance film I saw was Pina, which was a bit too "artsy" for me, though the 3D in it was great. First Position is completely different from that type of movie, as it follows six ballet students as they vie for a spot in the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix competition. The film was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, and I would recommend it to anyone, even if you are not interested in movies about dance, as the movie was really about these kids and the sacrifices they make every day so they can pursue their passion.

The six dancers that the film follows are from all over the world. Aran lives in Italy with his parents, and he is American but his dad is in the Navy, so they move around a lot. He commutes two hours to Milan with his mother so that he can take dance lessons. He also has a friend, Gaya, from Israel, who is an intense little girl who loves ballet and is competing in the YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) as well. The Fogarty children, Miko and her brother Jules, or J.J., both are ballet students, but Miko is a lot more serious about it than Jules, who provides some comic relief throughout the movie.

Rebecca, from the U.S., is the oldest student that the documentary focuses on, and her goal in the YAGP is to be offered a job contract with one of the ballet companies. Michaela, originally from Sierra Leone, was adopted by American parents after her own parents were murdered by the regime there, and she feels lucky to be alive and able to dance. Finally, Joan Sebastian is living in New York City and taking dance lessons, but it is hard for him because he is from Colombia and has had to leave his mother, father, and brother there while he tries to accomplish his dreams.

The dancing in this movie was phenomenal, and I really liked how they chose only six students to focus on; if they had tried to do ten or more, for example, the film probably would have felt too "stuffed," and we only would have been able to see short clips of each of the dancers. I did wonder how they chose the students, because (spoiler!) they all do well in the YAGP, but the director of the movie has said that she didn't know that they would all do so well when she originally chose which students she wanted to feature in the documentary.

Yes, definitely see this movie. Even if you are not a huge dance fan, the movie really is more about the perseverance that these kids (and their families) go through just to make it this far in their careers. Miko and her brother Jules are homeschooled so that they can have more time for dance, and other kids, like Aran and Joan, in a way, commute long distances just to have access to top-notch dance instructors. In one scene, it's mentioned how these kids kind of lose their childhood because of all the time they spend dancing, but as Miko says, "I feel like I've had just the right amount of childhood and just the right amount of dance."

First Position is in theaters today, May 18th, and is Not Rated, with a runtime of 90 minutes. In the metro Detroit area it is playing exclusively at the Main Art Theater (Royal Oak). 4 stars out of 5.

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