Monday, March 31, 2014

DVD: First Position

For students and those who love dance, especially ballet, First Position is a must see. This revealing documentary gives us a peek into the mysterious world of ballet by following seven young dancers from around the world as they seek to win the coveted prizes and scholarships of the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions.

The documentary opens with the semifinals and introduces us to the seven dancers who will be followed; tall, elegant and beautiful Rebecca Houseknecht, graceful Miko Fogarty and her younger brother Jules Jarvis Fogarty, the quiet and determined Aran Bell, handsome Juan Sebastian Zamora, the athletic Michaela DePrince and the lyrical Gaya Bommer Yemini.

Through the camera lens we experience the sacrifices each dancer's family makes so that he or she can develop their talent to the fullest. There are sequences showing the damage done to bodies and feet especially. Other scenes show the devastation that follows after a poor performance. Not everyone can win.

Some of the dancers featured in the documentary are especially engaging. Michaela DePrince was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone when she was adopted by an American couple, Charles and Elaine DePrince. Her best friend, Mia was also adopted by the DePrinces. Michaela began taking lessons at age four and studied at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. Her interest in ballet began though back when she was a small child in Africa and she found a picture of a ballerina in a magazine. Michaela's powerful dancing and beautiful leaps make her enthralling to watch! Michaela DePrince's professional debut was in 2012 with the South African Manszi Ballet Company. Michaela DePrince is living proof of what we have always known - that black women can dance ballet with beauty and grace. You can read about Michaela from this BBC article, Michael DePrince: The War Orphan Who Became A Ballerina. Michaela's website is

It's also fascinating to see how some of the young dancers featured in this documentary from four years ago are faring now. As this video demonstrates, Miko Fogarty who is now sixteen has continued to develop into a beautiful dancer with amazing technique:

Bess Kargman, Director, Producer and Editor of First Position, studied ballet at the Boston Ballet School, but never entered ballet competitions. According to the documentary website, Kargman set out to make the documentary she wished had existed. The crew traveled all over the world to film the dancers, who were chosen based on their unique stories and who reflected the social, cultural and economic diversity of students in ballet.

This remarkable and award winning documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in the performing arts.

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