Portraits of Beauty and Aspiration
Release Date: May 04, 2012
Starring: Aran Bell, Michaela DePrince,
Jules Jarvis Fogarty, Miko
Fogarty, Rebecca Houseknecht,
Gaya Yemini, Joan Sebastian
Audience: All ages
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Sundance Selects/Rainbow Media
Director: Bess Kargman
Executive Producer: Rose Caiola
Producer: Bess Kargman, Nick Higgins,
Jennilyn Merten, Hashem Selph
Address Comments To:Evan Shapiro, President, Sundance Channel (Sundance Selects)
Rainbow Media Holdings LLC (Independent Film Channel/IFC Films/IFC First Take/Sundance Channel/AMC/WE)
11 Penn Plaza, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (646) 273-7336; Fax: (646) 273-7260
The documentary follows the lives of six dancers of all different ages and backgrounds. Director Bess Kargman grew up immersed in this world of ballet bars and costumes. However, she wanted to create a movie that truthfully honored this alluring art form. Ballet dancers train hard and push their bodies in ways that are similar to professional athletes. Viewers get to see each dancer as they tolerate the pain of training to achieving the aesthetic. Injuries, blisters, and exhaustion come from the constant physical nature of their art. Sacrifice is no foreign concept, as these youths strive every day to achieve their goal amidst many obstacles. The movie shows how dance becomes each youth’s way of expressing themselves and understanding their world. It’s no longer just a hobby, but a way of living.
While the movie revolves around the competition, its main focus is the varied lives of its characters. Each one has a story to tell. Each one has a deep connection with the ability to move and create. Kargman has captured the environment with detail and insight. The long rehearsal hours, the strict teachers, the piano music floating from studio to hallway – these are all shades of the story. Childhood played out in costumes and lights. The families of these children have come around and supported them in their dreams. Often, the parents sacrifice time, money, and even location to support their child’s training. The movie shows how different family structures relate to the demands of such a rigorous daily lifestyle.
The competition itself is exciting to watch as some of the world’s most talented dancers convene in one place. As with any competition, each dancer is sizing the other up, wondering who is going to win the awards and scholarships. Out of the 5,000 who enter each year, only a few hundred make it to the final round. From there, only a select few win in each age bracket. Therefore, each dancer must show the judges everything they have during their few moments on stage.
FIRST POSITION contains many noble lessons on work ethic, passion, and drive. It’s encouraging to watch the dedication each dancer has. However, those that succeed do so at the expense of many other life experiences. Family routines are disrupted and individual worth can be crushed by a bad performance. This movie shows that honest passion and artistry is a gift. However, it is to be stewarded well. There is no specific philosophy that presides over the movie. Each individual has their own perspective on what motivates their life. There is no reference to God or spirituality. However, the documentary is morally uplifting.
Overall, FIRST POSITION is beautifully constructed. The movie draws viewers into the stories of the dancers. The movie’s rich imagery leads the camera through dressing rooms and hallways to being under the theater lights where talent and storytelling take center stage.
The personal stories of each dancer make FIRST POSITION an engaging and dynamic movie. The audience gets swept up in the pursuit and passion each dancer shows. There is no reference to God, but themes of sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance make the movie morally uplifting. The environment of ballet has been beautifully captured as the camera goes backstage to see where the dancing begins. Overall, there’s no questionable content. This makes FIRST POSITION an enjoyable experience for all ages.