Helene

First Position

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I just came from a Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) showing of Bess Kargmann's "First Position", a documentary which follows a group of young ballet dancers preparing for YAGP 2010, focusing on six plus one sibling who came with the package, but quit ballet. (In one scene, his teacher says that his bows were the best part of the variation, so that's probably for the best. When asked his favorite part of the film, according to the director he replied "When I fell.") In addition, there's another dancer in a supporting role, because there's no footage of her at home or in Israel training, unlike other seven, but she comes through as a vivid personality.

Kargmann studied ballet for over a decade, according to the Boston Herald at the Boston Ballet School, but as she said in an interview, "I danced my entire childhood but was spared from all of the sticker shock because I was little. Some tutus cost $2,000 and you wear them twice. It’s really, really shocking how expensive ballet can be." She was at the screening and spoke and answered questions at the end for a good 30 minutes.

Kargmann said she gave up ballet and later played college hockey -- wheee!. (She must have been very tough or very fast or both, because she is pretty tiny.) Bored with her post-graduation job -- I'm not sure if I heard this correctly, but I think she said that -- she saw a gaggle of ballet students on the street and knew that this was the film she had to make. She noticed one girl in particular, and I think it was YAGP who gave her 100 photos, from which she recognized Miko Fogarty, who would be one of the six main dancers on whom the film focuses. She said she had a lot of competition from other filmmakers who also wanted to use YAGP as the center of their projects, and it was especially tough, since she didn't have a resume. However, she said that she "talked the talk" and made it clear to the YAGP folks that she didn't want to make a reality show out of it or even focus on the winners: she wanted to tell more complex stories. YAGP has a page on its site that has links to a number of reviews, the trailer, etc., so they must be pleased.

It was important to her that the group was not just racially diverse but economically diverse as well, and she wanted at least one dancer who led a relatively normal life -- in public high school, not home-schooled or away to boarding school -- and she wanted to show that dancers don't all starve themselves or live off of caffeine and cigarettes. There are two wonderful scenes with Joan Sebastian Zamora, the first with his roommate in Queens, who cooks what looks like a mean and tasty stew, although he says they pretty much eat only that, and then when he visits home in Cali, Colombia for the first time in a year, his mom makes an enormous pot of chicken stew that is cooked on top of a grill and looks mouth-watering. The director also chose dancers from different age ranges and points in their career, with the older dancers looking for scholarships or contracts as much as prizes.

Kargmann noted that the kids were quite shy -- they mentioned being able to say things with their bodies that they couldn't verbally -- and she shut off the cameras and went to dinner with the kids and her cameraman to get to know them better and put them at ease. The strategy worked, because you'd never know it from the resulting film.

Kargmann did a lot of the filming herself at first, but then hired a cameraman (Nick Higgins) whom she called a great cinematographer, and she took many photos as well; for the final week she added cameras for a total of six, so that she could get shots from every angle. She called veteran editor Kate Amend on someone's recommendation, and Amend said that she could recommend a lot of people, but that she might be interested herself. (Amend has edited two other films at this year's VIFF, but the MC didn't mention which other two.) Kargmann was very grateful to Amend for the amount she learned. The director is smart as a whip, extremely engaging, high-energy, and verbal, and I was very disappointed when the Q&A ended. However, she did say the magic words, "When the DVD comes out", and this is one I'll order the moment it is announced.

The footage at home and in the studio, in class and preparing for the competition, is fascinating, and the teachers are some of the best characters in the movie, especially Denys Ganio, who teaches Aran Bell, Viktor Kabaniaev, who teaches Miko and Jules Fogarty, and, too briefly, a man whose name I didn't catch who coached Joan Sebastian Zamora in NYC; I thought he said he danced with ABT. (Zamora is listed on the YAGP site as coming from the Rock School.)

Race comes up several times in the film, and no one's pulling any punches. Zamora says that his idol is Carlos Acosta, because he was the first black principal at the Royal Ballet, and that he probably thinks of himself as black because he's from Colombia. His skin is no darker than most of the people with whom I grew up whose ancestry was from Sicily, so I think that says a lot. For the other two times, the subject is Michaela DePrince. The first time we see her mother, an older Jewish woman with a broad NY metro accent, she is dying straps and tutu panties brown and using a marker to darken the flesh-tone center "V" of a tutu, because commercially available "flesh-toned" is for white dancers. DePrince later lists all of the attributes that black dancers are supposed to have -- ex: bad feet, no extension -- and she's living proof that these are ridiculous assertions, because if anything, she has too much extension. When her mother says that people come up to her to tell her why her daughter can't be a ballet dancer, she asks, somewhat rhetorically whether they think their comments affect her less because her daughter is adopted or whether they're really that crass. Kargmann and Amend let people make the points clearly and move on, the touch of masterful editing, because you don't forget it. I'm interested to see what will be in the bonus material. (Kargmann said if she used all of the footage she'd have a four-hour, rather than a 1.5-hour movie.)

The parents are a mixed bunch: those who moved houses and businesses to be closer to their kids training, a military father who chose to go to Kuwait so that his family could stay within two hours of Rome for his son to continue training rather than move the whole family to a place where there was none, parents who are supportive without being overwhelming to not so much, parents who really aren't sure what hit them, and parents who understand that this is their kid's best chance to earn a decent living, which in itself is a frightening thought. Like with figure skaters, there's a substantial financial investment and sacrifice, and the ones who softly remind their child of this can pull the guilt-strings just as skillfully -- after one such instance, the woman behind me said incredulously, "No pressure there..." and many others gasped -- as the ones who are in their kid's face(s).

As far as the dancing goes, the two that most impressed me were 11-year-old Aran Bell and 16-year-old Joan Sebastian Zamora. Unfortunately the "poster" photo for Zamora is far more extreme than anything he showed in training and competition, where he was quite elegant and controlled, but virile at the same time, great attributes for a danseur noble. The film opens with Bell, who looks like a young Dennis Christopher and is quite goofy and young, showing off his skateboard and unicycle and toy trucks and gun -- there's a great scene of him in Central Park zipping along on his skateboard, until he stops in awe of a cyclist who bounces his bike up a large, craggy rock formation -- which didn't prepare me for how elegant and un-show-offy he was. He also had a very sweet friendship with Gaya Bommer-Yemeni, whose mother is a modern/contemporary choreographer in Israel, which is quite clear from her choreography for her daughter. Bommer-Yemeni is quite a character and has stage presence that you can't buy. (Kargmann, answering a question from the audience, thinks that she will end up in modern or contemporary, not ballet.)

Aside from Rebecca Houseknecht, who shows less of this, whatever their good attributes, like solid cores, nice feet, and presence, the girls are being trained to ridiculous extensions by highly prestigious teachers and schools, and it was hard to watch.

The cinematographer captured so many great reactions from the dancers, the coaches, the teachers, the parents, and, surprisingly the judges: it was amazing to see among a row of judges the look of joy and wonder on some of their faces as they are impressed and moved by a young dancer. That alone was worth the price of admission.

There is a lot of humor in this film, and lots of laughs from the audience. But be warned: if you see it where there are many non-ballet people (doers, watchers, and parents), be prepared for audience reactions that would make you think you were at a horror flick, as dancers show their torture devices, their wrecked feet, and their various ways of contorting themselves well beyond 180 degrees.

At 90 minutes, I hope takes off like "Spellbound" and "Mad Hot Ballrom" and gets aired on TV.

Edited to add: the film will play at New York's Documentary Festival on Saturday, 5 November at 1:15pm at NYU.

On Thursday the "First Position Team" announced that Sundance Selects has acquired the North American rights to the film:

http://moviecitynews...first-position/

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On Thursday the "First Position Team" announced that Sundance Selects has acquired the North American rights to the film:

http://moviecitynews.com/2011/10/sundance-selects-takes-north-american-rights-to-bess-kargman%E280%99s-dance-doc-first-position/

Congratulations to all concerned in the making and subsequent success of this film. There are some noted similarities in Ms. Kargmann's and my background that I'd like to explore with her sometime. However, my main concern at this critical point in time of my own documentary is how "First Position" was financed. Were there any questions (and/or answers) about that during the Q&A?

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No one asked, but she did say that at one point she found investors. (I wish I could remember what event triggered her being able to get them.) The other time she mentioned money was when she discussed adding extra cameras for the last week (or maybe two) during the competition. She said that she wanted a crane, they said it would be $3000/day, and she said "No crane!", which made me think that $21K was a big deal for the budget.

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Thanks, Helene. I really wanted to see this. I saw Arun on the Guggenheim series and was amazed by him.

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Thanks, Helene. I really wanted to see this. I saw Arun on the Guggenheim series and was amazed by him.

I saw Aran Bell dance a variation from Don Quixote and "La Chauve Souris" (Roland Petit) in a Youth America Grand Prix in Tampa this past January. He was amazing. So much stage presence. At such a young age he commands the stage. If he continues along these lines he has a great career ahead of him!!!

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"First Position" won the Audience Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best New Director at the Portland International Film Festival:

http://newsroom.nwfi...-award-winners/

Maybe it will come to the Seattle festival this year.

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Manhattan Movement & Arts Center,

in association with sundance SELECTS presents

First Position

A film by Director Bess Kargman

Executive Producer Rose Caiola

Friday, May 4, 2012

Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, in association with sundance SELECTS, presents the opening screening of First Position on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 6:45pm at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Theater at Lincoln Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Amsterdam and Broadway), NYC. Tickets are $13 ($9 for Seniors/Students/Children; $8 for Members) and are available for purchase at http://www.filmlinc....irst-position1. First Position is distributed nationally by IFC Films.

Follow in the inspirational footsteps of six talented ballet dancers (ages nine to nineteen) as they struggle to maintain form in the face of injury and personal sacrifice on their way to one of the most prestigious youth ballet competitions in the world. First Position is a feature length documentary about a love of dance and a drive to succeed that trumps money, politics and even war.

With unprecedented (and exclusive) access to the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest competition that awards full scholarships to top ballet schools, First Position takes audiences on a yearlong journey around the world. At a time when art, music and dance for children are severely under-funded, the film reveals the struggles and success, the pain and extraordinary beauty of an art form so many children across the globe are determined to dedicate their lives to...despite the odds.

First Position had its World Premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was named the audience choice's first runner up for Best Documentary. It also won the Jury Prize at the San Francisco Documentary Festival and the audience award at DOCNYC.

ROSE CAIOLA

Executive Producer

With a love of ballet since childhood, Rose Caiola is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC). MMAC is an 18,000 sq. ft. performing arts center that houses a 199 seat Off Broadway theater venue, as well as providing all genres of dance instruction including her own not-for-profit pre-professional ballet school, the Manhattan Youth Ballet. Caiola is currently a producer of Godspell on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theater and the co-author and producer of the long running Off-Broadway musical Freckleface Strawberry, which will soon begin a national tour and can be licensed through MTI.

Caiola's goal through all her projects has been to provide equal educational, cultural and artistic opportunities for inner city youth. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and is a member of The Broadway League of Theatres and Producers, and the Screen Actors Guild.

BESS KARGMAN

Director / Producer / Editor

Bess Kargman has produced timely, socially and politically relevant stories for numerous media outlets including National Public Radio, The Washington Post and NBC Olympics. She holds degrees from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and Amherst College. Long before entering the world of film and radio, Kargman trained at Boston Ballet School (and has the bruised feet to prove it). First Position is her first movie and premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (where it took People's Choice runner-up for best documentary). When she's not living out of a suitcase, Kargman divides her time between New York and Los Angeles.

About Manhattan Movement & Arts Center

Manhattan Movement & Arts Center was developed by Rose Caiola as the home of the Manhattan Youth Ballet, a graded, pre-professional ballet academy and performance company. Ms. Caiola, a former dancer and actress, founded the academy in the fall of 1994 as Studio Maestro at 48 W. 68th Street, and today serves as the youth ballet's executive artistic director.

The school is modeled after the European academies. The Manhattan Youth Ballet has acquired a reputation for excellent teaching in an intimate and individually supportive environment. The school's graduates have danced professionally with American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet de España, San Francisco Ballet and Complexions.

As the ballet academy grew, the search for a larger space inspired in Ms. Caiola a highly personal vision of a studio and theater complex that would encompass all aspects of dance education and performance.

mmac opened its doors in June 2008, occupying a dramatic bi-level space within The Element, a luxury high-rise condominium. In addition to the Manhattan Youth Ballet, mmac's studios and theater host daily adult dance and fitness classes, the mmac Kids program, summer intensive programs, as well as an array of performances and special events.

For more information about mmac, visit www.manhattanmovement.com.

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I hope so, but probably not while it's still in the theaters. I'd suggest visiting the film's website from time to time to check for an announcement.

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However, she said that she "talked the talk" and made it clear to the YAGP folks that she didn't want to make a reality show out of it or even focus on the winners: she wanted to tell more complex stories. YAGP has a page on its site that has links to a number of reviews, the trailer, etc., so they must be pleased.

Given the extensive input YAGP had over the content of the film, it would be strange if they were not pleased:

“We’re approached all the time by producers who want to make documentary or reality, and we always ask what they want to portray,” Larissa Saveliev, the organization’s founder and artistic director said, noting that the competition recently rejected a request from Lifetime’s popular “Dance Moms.” “Usually they want to see the fights, the teachers, anorexia. And we’re just not interested to have a film about this.”

Manohla Dargis' review, also in the Times:

Ms. Saveliev’s participation wasn’t obvious to me from watching “First Position” — and it should have been. “First Position” isn’t a sponsored production, which turn some documentaries into veritable advertisements, and it isn’t any less likable as a viewing experience because it was sanctioned by the very organization that coordinates the contest driving these children. Yet by not underscoring Ms. Saveliev’s input, Ms. Kargman obscured crucial information in a story that she otherwise serves well. And it leaves unanswered whether Ms. Saveliev’s involvement accounts for the movie’s aspirational, almost boosterish vibe and why Ms. Kargman didn’t include substantive criticisms of ballet competitions, which are, as it turns out, not universally supported in the dance world.

Also:

Children are of course among the most seductive film subjects, inspiring oohs and ahs just by their presence. Wee ones who compete against one another like those in “First Position” — their little lips trembling with effort, small bodies straining against cruel odds — are even more irresistible, which makes the movie something of a slam dunk when it comes to audience love. This partly explains recent competition-oriented documentaries like “Mad Hot Ballroom” (about ballroom dance); “Spellbound” (spelling bee); “Whiz Kids” (science); “Koran by Heart” (memorization); and “Brooklyn Castle” (chess). Given that documentary filmmaking is itself a competitive field, with its makers vying for grants, production money, festival slots, distribution deals, awards and audiences, it’s a subject that is clearly near and dear to the documentarian heart.

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The aristocracy in Russia was pleased by Petipa's portrayal of them in "Sleeping Beauty". Not everyone recognizes when they look [fill in a non-flattering adjective] from the outside. While the movie is flattering in some ways, in other ways: not so much.

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I finally saw this film @ Lincoln Center this past weekend. It is a well-crafted documentary but a couple of things bothered me:

1. The 'advertisement' aspects of the YAGP competition...particularly as the small 'history' narrative near the beginning makes it appear as if YAGP is the first-and-only ballet competition on this earth. For example, there is no mention of long-established scholarship-giving events like Prix de Lausanne. (!) The film also hints that the competitions route may be the only way to a career in ballet, which is not true.

2. The almost-mocking (not to say "stereotyping") portrayal of the lone WASP female dancer, focusing on her privileged Washington-suburban lifestyle, replete with pink 'princessy' acoutrements. The film caps this young lady's story by noting that she failed to earn a prize and a scholarship at the NYC finals. Gee, how dramatically convenient! (During the post-credit updates, we are told that she eventually was called by the Washington Ballet and offered a corps job...not quite true; she was offered a spot in the WB Studio Company for 2010/2011 but isn't on the WBSC roster anymore.)

Incidentally, it was a joy to have seen one of the subject dancers, Michaela DePrince, performing with the ABT Studio Company at PACE University on Friday evening. She was a standout in Susan Jaffe's modern work, as well as in the reconstruction of Antony Tudor's 1938 Soiree Musicale, where she stole the show (IMO) in the pas de deux 'Tirolese' with Alex Kramer.

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p.s. - Another example of the contrived nature of this documentary: the young lad seen winning the top 'Hope' prize in the youngest division, Aran Bell (so talented!), had won the exact-same prize the previous year (2009). Not that he did not deserve it again when this film was made (2010) but, with the knowledge that he is the defending winner of the top prize in his age-division, I find it a tad amusing that the documentary holds us in suspense during the prize giving, as if poor little Aran had been left-out without a medal....seconds later, "But wait! The top prize has yet to be handed out and...Could it be??? Will Aran win????" Strangely pre-contrived film. One thinks that, during the course of the past 90 minutes of our following Aran in his preparations, the narrator could have mentioned..."Oh, Aran Bell won the top award last year. Now he'll try to win back-to-back Hope Awards." I guess that it would have killed the suspense, so I understand the reasons for witholding that minor factoid...but it leaves a somewhat foul taste with folks who know the back story.

p.s.s. - Amazingly, Aran Bell returned to YAGP the year after the film was made and won the top prize of the next division, the Junior Grand Prix! So he won the divisional top prizes three years in a row...a 'three-peat'! I did not see his name among the winners of the most recent YAGP (April 2012), so am guessing that he's taken a year off from competing. Mr. Blake Kessler of Orlando won the Jr Gnd-Prix this year & Mariinsky Apprentice Kim Kimin won the Sr Grand-Prix.

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I didn't get the impression that the film tried to pass YAGP as the only competition to award scholarships, but the only competition to give scholarships to those so young. Prix de Lausanne is looking at 15-18 year olds, which would have eliminated half of the kids in the film and one of its more fascinating aspects: how kids that young aspire to roles that are over their technical and emotional heads and are packaged for the competition. It's unlike the great training academies that give the students age-appropriate roles and stage experience and grow them into Odile, for example, and, for the most part, impart and reward classical virtues, not extension after extension.

Kargman isn't responsible for the way the competition announced the prizes -- I'm convinced that the Met deliberately announced Michael Fabiano and not one of the others as the optional sixth winner to torture him in 2007 Met Council Auditions -- or for Bell's expression during the regular announcements. Bell didn't look relieved when he realized that he didn't get "demoted" to a lesser prize. I think it would have been more effective for the film to have stated that Bell was going for a repeat, because that would have made the ending even more suspenseful: it would have meant that the judges might have skipped him altogether: by then it was an all-or-nothing situation. You see this all the time in the hierarchical reverse announcements with more finalists than prizes: up to the last announcement, no one wants to hear their name, but for the last one, most know that they would rather have been one of the lesser winners than no winner at all.

Kargman said in a Q&A in Vancouver that 1. She had to work with people who were willing to work with her and that she had to be practical about the number of contestants and 2. She was hoping to find someone who had grown up in more average circumstances, as a non-home schooled/regular high school student doing some regular activities, and whose parents were innocents about the ballet world and were taken by surprise by it. (They seemed rather shell-shocked throughout the film.) Since she had to follow the contestants over a long period of time, she could hardly know how they would be judged in the end.

I think "mocking" is in the eye of the beholder and that the Fogartys' Tiger Mom came off much worse to the average viewer.

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I think "mocking" is in the eye of the beholder and that the Fogartys' Tiger Mom came off much worse to the average viewer.

Focusing the camera on a pink "PRINCESS" vanity license plate, then showing Rebecca driving, hands on a fluffy pink stirring-wheel cover...then showing all of her pink stuffed dolls in her pink room. The gal was set up to be mocked by the average audience, IMO. It paid off, as many in the audience at the Lincoln Center film institute guffawed as the on-screen titles let us know that Rebecca had failed to earn a scholarship. Yeah, the 'Tiger Mom' in Diablo, California, was also shown negatively. Reality-film/reality-TV producers know how to 'milk' or 'set up' scenes for maximum stereotyping. This method has been told by many ex-reality-TV personalities...many had no idea that they were being set up. The editing process can accentuate certain traits. It's all 'manipulated entertainment' in the end, even if it's termed "reality."

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I saw it at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and I think I still have a bruise where the woman next to me grabbed my arm and exclaimed "Thank G-d!" when we found out that she was offered a contract at Washington Ballet. I thought she came across as a lovely young woman.

If the audience at Lincoln Center Film Institute mocked her, that's unfortunate. Having heard the director speak, the first adjective that comes to mind is "empathy"; I don't think mockery or sensationalism was on her mind. Your mileage may vary.

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The aristocracy in Russia was pleased by Petipa's portrayal of them in "Sleeping Beauty". Not everyone recognizes when they look [fill in a non-flattering adjective] from the outside. While the movie is flattering in some ways, in other ways: not so much.

I take the point but almost any movie, no matter how enthusiastic, that depicts young children performing and competing under circumstances of such intense pressure is going to present material of ambiguous import. Dargis was pointing out that the movie makes no mention of the level of YAGP’s involvement in the project. I expect that wasn’t an issue at the Maryinsky.....

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.... Dargis was pointing out that the movie makes no mention of the level of YAGP’s involvement in the project. I ...

Dirac, this was VERY much commented on by ballet-industry folks who sat around me, right after the screening. I joined them for a quick bite and further discussion at the little cafe in the LC Film Institute's lobby. The biggest negative about this documentary is the paid-informational aspect and how the director's prior involvement with the YAGP wasn't mentioned. My own 'peeve' about the portrayal of Rebecca-as-spoiled-princess was not the main issue. The main issue is the hidden agenda. This was VERY talked about and not by me. The other folks enlightened me.

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Jessica Philiips, a dancer with Ballet Arizona, was interviewed for a piece on raisingarizonakids.com about her experience competing at YAGP:

Phillips began dance lessons when she was eight years old, but says she “didn’t take it seriously” until she was 12. That’s when a teacher suggested Phillips enter the Youth America Grand Prix, and Phillips was game. “I remember being so nervous,” she recalls, “knowing that I’d been working for months and months and months.” It all turns on a single dance, and anything can happen.

“Dancers have good days and bad days like any job or day in life,” muses Phillips. “The day of the competition there’s so much stress thinking about all the sacrifices you’ve made.” No matter how well you do, she says, you never feel like it was exactly how you wanted it to be. “You can always be better,” insists Phillips.

Thanks to Ballet Arizona for posting the link on its Facebook page.

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I went to a screening in Seattle this week and was surprised by the vocal reactions of some people in the audience -- there wasn't much of the mocking that others have commented on, but there was some definite criticism of Miko Fogarty's mother. I agree that the chorus of "eeewww" responding to the stretching equipment and the state of some of the feet made it clear that they were new to the dance world, but I was glad to have that point of view represented.

In general, I felt the film wasn't anywhere near as judgmental as it might have been -- we were shown a great deal, but weren't told how we should respond. I know that many people on this board were uncomfortable with the lack of identifiers in Frederick Wiseman's film on the Paris Opera Ballet, but I appreciated the light hand he used while he directed our attention to different aspects of the institution -- I think that Kargman managed to stay relatively distant here as well. I'm not as familiar with the YAGP as some other BA participants, but I don't feel that I've been sold in one direction or another.

The film is going to run in Seattle at the Seven Gables Theater starting May 25 -- we're in the middle of a big film festival here, which might cut into some of its audience, but I hope not. The Gables is part of the Landmark chain, but the screening I saw was organized by Sundance, which has just bought a local multiplex, so it's wheels within wheels, business as usual...

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.............Bess Kargmann's "First Position".......

I just saw yesterday First Position, having bought it from Comcast, for tv viewing. It was somewhat fascinating.

Your commentary, Helene,was absorbing.

I don't think i'd venture to a YAGP event, if i ever run into it. A circle of hell with Parents' Vanities.

I' ve seen two competitions in my lifetime: the Jackson Miss. 2000, and the Moscow 2005.

The YAGP very likely has countless virtues; juries of devoted classicists (like Elizabeth Platel and Sergei Filin), and commited coaches (like Kabanaiev and Denis Ganio). The documentary is infused with intelligence.

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I finally saw this film @ Lincoln Center this past weekend. It is a well-crafted documentary but a couple of things bothered me:

1. The 'advertisement' aspects of the YAGP competition...particularly as the small 'history' narrative near the beginning makes it appear as if YAGP is the first-and-only ballet competition on this earth. For example, there is no mention of long-established scholarship-giving events like Prix de Lausanne. (!) The film also hints that the competitions route may be the only way to a career in ballet, which is not true.

2. The almost-mocking (not to say "stereotyping") portrayal of the lone WASP female dancer, focusing on her privileged Washington-suburban lifestyle, replete with pink 'princessy' acoutrements. The film caps this young lady's story by noting that she failed to earn a prize and a scholarship at the NYC finals. Gee, how dramatically convenient! (During the post-credit updates, we are told that she eventually was called by the Washington Ballet and offered a corps job...not quite true; she was offered a spot in the WB Studio Company for 2010/2011 but isn't on the WBSC roster anymore.)

I saw the movie via Comcast as chiapuris did this weekend and largely agree with you, Natalia. I suppose emphasizing Rebecca's love for pink and princesses was irresistible, but it does seem like rather a cheap shot - she's just a high school kid.

It's a good movie. Nothing especially remarkable about the film as a film but the human interest in watching little kids compete for stuff is undeniable and of course any ballet fan will want to see this.

One thinks that, during the course of the past 90 minutes of our following Aran in his preparations, the narrator could have mentioned..."Oh, Aran Bell won the top award last year. Now he'll try to win back-to-back Hope Awards." I guess that it would have killed the suspense, so I understand the reasons for witholding that minor factoid...but it leaves a somewhat foul taste with folks who know the back story.

Agree with this, too. There's more than one moment where Kargman has an opportunity to slip in the information that this isn't Aran's first award and you have to assume the omission is deliberate. It's not the worst omission I've ever seen in a documentary and contrivance inevitably appears when the filmmaker is trying to build up suspense, but sure, it's something the viewer should be told.

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