First Position, 2012

 

 

 

 

Six dance students follow the same dream against long odds in this documentary. The Youth America Grand Prix is a competition for young ballet students between the ages of 9 and 19; it’s one of the world’s leading proving grounds for new talent, and most major dance companies and schools pay close attention to who fares well in the annual contest. Each year, thousands of dancers enter, but only 300 make it into the finals, held in New York City. First Position follows six youngsters who’ve entered the Grand Prix, and their lives and backgrounds offer a glimpse into the wide range of competitors. Sixteen-year-old Joan Sebastian Zamora is from Colombia, and his parents have sent him to America to train with a top instructor; he has to deal with his family’s high expectations as well as those of the judges. Miko Fogarty is a 12-year-old from Palo Alto, CA, who dreams of becoming a professional; her parents believe in her, but also want her younger brother to follow in her footsteps, whether he’s willing to or not. Fourteen-year-old Michaela DePrince was born in Sierra Leone, and is still haunted by memories of the bloody civil war there; she’s since been adopted by a couple in Philadelphia, and dreams of becoming a star in a field where African-Americans are still not well-represented. Rebecca Houseknecht is a 17-year-old from Maryland who looks like a star, and she hopes to skip college and go directly into professional dance. Aran Bell, 11, is the son of a military doctor; he’s determined to learn, and while his family is in Italy, he travels hours each day for lessons with a former star of the Ballet Marseilles. And Gaya Bommer Yemini, a close friend of Aran, is the daughter of Nadine Bommer, a well-respected Israeli choreographer, who hopes to follow her mother into the world of ballet.

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