No one in our family has been especially drawn to ballet and yet we were totally immersed in this compelling documentary. First Position is one of those rare films which dancers probably won't want to miss and non- dancers could find surprisingly enjoyable. I'm surprised it hasn't received national attention and major press coverage- or has it and I somehow missed it?
The director of First Position offers a close- up and intimate portrait of a group of young dancers preparing to compete in an elite (and potentially life changing) competition and wisely steps back and lets the dancers, their instructors, and parents reveal the details of their lives.
It is amazing that some have even had the opportunity to dance. Michaela was adopted from Sierra Leone, miraculously beating the odds to come to America. Joan Sebastian only sees his parents a few times a year because he has to live in New York instead of Columbia to pursue his dreams. One girl is home schooled so there is more time for dance class, a life which seems very isolated but she is so passionate about ballet that she doesn't appear to mind.
Until watching this film, I had no idea that ballet could cause so many injuries. Pain is taken for granted. I winced when I saw the blackened toenails, cuts and bruises which were revealed as the ballet shoes were removed.
It was a brilliant decision to reveal the daily lives of these dancers and to ramp up the suspense and reveal unexpected challenges as the competition drew near. By that time, we were rooting for each dancer and holding our breath as they performed in the finals.