When I read about the documentary First Position, I was thinking – how exciting can a documentary about a ballet competition be, especially since I’m clueless about anything ballet? After watching this, I can honestly say I found this not only exciting, but extremely inspiring.
First Position follows the lives of six kids aged from 10 to 17 years old as they train to compete in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix Ballet competition. About 5000 kids enter the competition each year but only a fraction of that get awarded scholarships and contracts to the top international schools and companies. Director Bess Kargman (a dancer in her childhood) filmed for a year in Italy, Japan, France, Great Britain, Colombia, Canada and various cities in the United States to show us all the hardship involved in the training, the determination needed to succeed in this field, and the final results (no spoilers here so you’ll have to watch it to find out who made it and who didn’t).
Watching First Position made me want to get off my butt and work harder in everything I do. These young kids push themselves to do what so few people can, and the pain and injuries they experience are shown on screen, including shots of swollen toes and chafed skin on the feet. You get a clue to what is involved right at the beginning of the film when Aran Bell, one of the young dancers, explains a piece of exercise equipment used for ballet and says “You’re supposed to do it as much as possible, and then do 5 more after you absolutely can’t do it anymore”. It is hard (at least for me) not to invest your emotions in these characters and their hopes, and by the end of the film when the judges announce the results, you’ll find yourself waiting anxiously to see if they made it.
First Position was released in 2011 but it has yet to make its way here to Australia. The DVD though, is already available in the US and can be purchased on Amazon. If you’re feeling like you’re going through a rough patch, give this film a watch. You’ll be inspired.