Helene

First Position

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(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.)

In the following Washington Post article published May 11th, the rest of the story about the 'pink and princessy' young dancer Rebecca Houseknecht, is told:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/first-position-dancers-at-a-breaking-point/2012/05/10/gIQAoTcbIU_story.html

Of course, Houseknecht’s story continued, but not in the Cinderella way the film implies.

Says Webre: “Right away we looked at her to tackle solo roles. I certainly expected great things from her.” She danced multiple parts in “The Nutcracker,” and performed her Odalisque variation as part of the main company’s full-length “

Le Corsaire.” After a few months, Webre wanted to promote her to the company. But Houseknecht had had enough.

“I really liked it the first couple months,” she says, “but I just realized it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like having to dance for my job, as weird as it sounds. You’d think it was my dream, but it just didn’t work.”

She stuck out the year and then left. She’s now studying speech pathology at Towson University. She is also on the school’s competitive dance team, which performs jazz, hip-hop and pom routines at football and basketball games.

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Cinderella-ending is actually accurate for what happened to Houseknecht. The Cinderella story ends "And they lived happily ever after," and we assume what that means. Houseknecht got her contract instead of a Prince, and she doesn't have to live wondering "What if?" having been rejected by ballet. Perhaps she is living happily ever after having tried her dream and rejected it in the end.

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Marga, thanks so much for the link to the article on Rebecca's story &, apparently, the end to the Ballet Chapter. This is fascinating...after "all THAT." At least she found a new calling and seems to be enjoying it.

Of course, there's no way that the film's director (and the YAGP organization) could have followed the stories of ALL of the dancers at the 2010 NYC finals. However, in retrospect, it would have been terrific if they had singled-out Riho Sakamoto of DC's Kirov Academy, who ended up winning the youngest division's Gold Medal, over Gaya Bommer of Israel, another terrific competitor who WAS profiled (the 'special friend' of Aran Bell) and won Bronze. I happened to see Riho essay the title role of GISELLE last night at the annual KAB graduation concert...extraordinary at the ripe old age of 14! (Yes - GISELLE at age 14...and she was sublime. Definitely not a 'competitions-only' sorta dancer.)

I now cannot wait to rewatch First Position to see if Riho is even shown, even if it's warming up in the hallways.

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Marga, thanks so much for the link to the article on Rebecca's story &, apparently, the end to the Ballet Chapter. This is fascinating...after "all THAT." At least she found a new calling and seems to be enjoying it.

When I saw the film in NYC the director was there for a Q & A. She said that she was planning a follow up film in 10 years. I wish she'd do it in 5!

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Cinderella-ending is actually accurate for what happened to Houseknecht. The Cinderella story ends "And they lived happily ever after," and we assume what that means. Houseknecht got her contract instead of a Prince, and she doesn't have to live wondering "What if?" having been rejected by ballet. Perhaps she is living happily ever after having tried her dream and rejected it in the end.

Generally when people refer to a "Cinderella story" the meaning is more specific than happily-ever-after, usually referring to someone who triumphs over serious adversity in one way or another. I don't think it really applies to Houseknecht in the sense intended by the Post article (or any other; Houseknecht is a fortunate young woman). Not winning any recognition at YAGP is a setback but as a rule Cinderellas face tougher circumstances than that.

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If you're a student in one of the big regional companies, or at SAB, then the audition tours are part of your program. But if you're a Brazilian kid from a barrio, or a Japanese student from a small town, then these competitions are important to win - in order to secure a summer or year long scholarship at one of the big programs.

Most people don't live "happily ever after" at the age of 18. There's still a lot of life to live, with all of its ups and downs. About a dozen years ago, a college chum turned his favorite hobby into his profession. He moved 800 miles away, his girlfriend quit her job to move with him. He lasted about 2 years, and then quit to return to an 8-5 job in his original city. Why? Turning his hobby into his job ruined all the love of it.

I did the same thing about 7 years ago, accepting a position with a non profit that I admired and had volunteered for extensively. But the internal staff politics and micromanagement drove me insane, and I left after 14 months. Sometimes we dream of how our future will be, but reality doesn't match our dreams.

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Marga, thanks so much for the link to the article on Rebecca's story &, apparently, the end to the Ballet Chapter. This is fascinating...after "all THAT." At least she found a new calling and seems to be enjoying it.
When I saw the film in NYC the director was there for a Q & A. She said that she was planning a follow up film in 10 years. I wish she'd do it in 5!

I was glad to see this comment. I just went to see this film yesterday. I loved it, and thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a follow-up movie in a few years, to see how things went for all of these talented young people. So maybe there will be!

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I just saw this film today at my local art film theatre, and I enjoyed it, although I was surprised that there were a couple of moments that dragged for me. I wanted to move on for an outcome several times. I also felt a couple of children were shown and then hardly ever again like the boy whose father thought he would be a football player ilke he was. I am not even sure they ever gave that boy's name. I think he messed up a variation at the finals and was upset, but he's probably only in 2-3 quick scenes.

I had seen Aran Bell in January in Tampa in a joint concert of winners and professionals. I mentioned that above. He exudes confidence and stage presence at such a young age. Amazing.

People mentioned the Japanese mother and how the audience they witnessed thought negatively about her, but my mother, who is Japanese, is the exact same way. I actually expected her to be way worse after reading the comments here. I really didn't see anything wrong with her. Her daughter seems to want to dance. She's not forcing her to dance, and she let her son quit. So she's not forcing him. I don't really see how she was bad in any way. Asian mothers want the best for their children, and they love them 100%. Their whole lives center around their children, but they can be strict. My mother was strict, but it was coupled with immense love. I read an article that authoritarian parenting has a bad rap as "bad parenting" in the U.S. but Asian mothers often use authoritarian parenting methods but almost always coupled with lots of love. That makes a huge difference. I don't think Asians would find her negative in any way. But I do think it is probably unusual for most Americans.

I also did not feel like Rebecca came off as a joke. To me she didn't look like she had it all or was privileged. She looked very middle class and her parents were hoping she'd get a scholarship b/c they were investing in her "career" so money was obviously an issue for them. They weren't rolling in cash. That didn't seem like a privileged person at all. I felt like Miko had a much more privileged existence than Rebecca. I also expected Rebecca to be annoying since I read that audiences mocked her, but I thought she seemed like a nice person who had talent.

Joan Sebastian's story was truly like a fairy tale. He said he looked up to Carlos Acosta, and then he got a scholarship to the Royal Ballet. It is an incredible story. If anything the phone calls with his parents sounded much more like Tiger Parents than Miko's mother did. But then he visited them, and I saw how much love they had for their son, and that balanced it out. I am a firm believer that as long as you love your child and show it, you can be strict and/or mean at times and it won't matter. You just can't be mean all the time without balancing it with love.

Michaela's story was fascinating. Imagine being so young and having seen so much in your life. Her balances were amazing! I hope we see and hear more from her. The whole dying of her clothing is fascinating to learn about. It is something no one ever thinks about. I had already read Helene's comments, so I knew it would come up. Her mother is right about how crass people are to tell her that her black child will never make it in ballet or something to that effect. I can't imagine how someone can think that is right to say to her! But people no longer amaze me. They get diarrhea of the mouth all the time.

Overall, this is a fascinating movie most of the time concerning the discipline involved in competing or even going into ballet, but I got the impression most people in the audience were ballet lovers or parents of ballet kids or kids in ballet today. I am not really sure it is a movie that the average Joe on the street would want to watch. I could be wrong.

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So this movie finally reached Puerto Rico and I was glad to finally see it... I had read this thread before and I knew a bit what to expect because of it. However one thing I did NOT expect was the audience reaction to Miko Fogarty's mother, for some inexplicable reason everyone was in a collective laughing fit by the time Jules finally decided to quit ballet and she was talking about it (and laughter is contagious and I admit I couldn't help myself). I think it was because people found Jules endearing (especially because of his interactions with his teacher and the faces his teacher made during the competition) so it was no surprise to anyone he quit. I really didn't find her so bad, Miko is a lovely dancer and seems to love it, and as someone mentioned, she didn't force Jules to keep doing it.

I found myself rooting for all of them, yes even Rebecca. I was especially happy to see Joan win the scholarship, my heart went out to him because he does seem to have enormous pressure to succeed (and his family doesn't have bad intentions, it is just the facts of where they are from). All in all I enjoyed it. :)

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Elena,

Thanks for your comments! I am in total agreement with you. I did not find Miko and Jules' mother bad at all. She simply wants success for her children.

Her crying when her son decided to quit was simply disappointment, b/c it probably complicates matters (having to take two children to two different trainings and events should he decide to do something like hockey or whatever), plus a dream dissolved. Life was easier when they were both doing it. She probably had a little dream of seeing them dance together one day. For the audience to laugh at her sadness is bizarre to me. If you see someone crying, you should want to console or at the very least not laugh!!!! Laughing at someone's tears is like scowling at someone's laughter. Why?

When Miko's mother talked about their food and how she doesn't want them to get "big," it reminded me so much of my mother. My mother considers me obese, and I am 6 feet 190 lbs. and workout 3 times a week and do yoga 4-6 times per week. No beer belly here, but I am OBESE in her eyes, b/c I don't look like I did when I was 16 years old (a weed). I am 45 and most 45 year old men look much worse in the weight department.

But this type of parenting does keep you concerned and constantly working on your weight throughout your life like weeding the garden. It never ends. Asian mothers don't want us to throw in the towel and just let ourselves go no matter what age. She will eat a tiny cup of soup for dinner at a restaurant.

I know I would be just like my mother or Miko's mother if I adopted a child. I would want my children to succeed at what they want to do, and I would not want them to get "big" for the simple fact that it makes life harder (society looks down on "big" people whether that should be the case or not and sometimes health suffers).

If she were beating her children and they were shown crying constantly in the movie I would understand people's reactions to her behavior, but to me she seems like a very good mother who lives for her children and wants them to succeed. I see nothing wrong in that at all.

Birdsall

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Elena,

Thanks for your comments! I am in total agreement with you. I did not find Miko and Jules' mother bad at all. She simply wants success for her children.

Her crying when her son decided to quit was simply disappointment, b/c it probably complicates matters (having to take two children to two different trainings and events should he decide to do something like hockey or whatever), plus a dream dissolved. Life was easier when they were both doing it. She probably had a little dream of seeing them dance together one day. For the audience to laugh at her sadness is bizarre to me. If you see someone crying, you should want to console or at the very least not laugh!!!! Laughing at someone's tears is like scowling at someone's laughter. Why?

When Miko's mother talked about their food and how she doesn't want them to get "big," it reminded me so much of my mother. My mother considers me obese, and I am 6 feet 190 lbs. and workout 3 times a week and do yoga 4-6 times per week. No beer belly here, but I am OBESE in her eyes, b/c I don't look like I did when I was 16 years old (a weed). I am 45 and most 45 year old men look much worse in the weight department.

But this type of parenting does keep you concerned and constantly working on your weight throughout your life like weeding the garden. It never ends. Asian mothers don't want us to throw in the towel and just let ourselves go no matter what age. She will eat a tiny cup of soup for dinner at a restaurant.

I know I would be just like my mother or Miko's mother if I adopted a child. I would want my children to succeed at what they want to do, and I would not want them to get "big" for the simple fact that it makes life harder (society looks down on "big" people whether that should be the case or not and sometimes health suffers).

If she were beating her children and they were shown crying constantly in the movie I would understand people's reactions to her behavior, but to me she seems like a very good mother who lives for her children and wants them to succeed. I see nothing wrong in that at all.

Birdsall

Good points! I also agree the audience reaction to the crying was very bizarre, in fact it was the absurdity of it all that made ME get into a laughing fit (I tend to not be able to control my laughter especially in inappropriate situations). It just didn't make sense and I was not expecting that reaction. I will say I didn't feel it was mean spirited and the audience was quite lively in general, after Miko did the Kitri variation or Joan did some of his variations the audience would burst out into applause as well. I'll just chalk it up to being Puerto Rican... we aren't the most silent/serious types. blushing.gif

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LOL Okay, I understand the laughter better now. I thought it was Schadenfreude, but maybe it was just that it was simply not expected and that Miko's mother was so emotional about his quitting that made them laugh b/c I guess there was humor to the whole Jules storyline.

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LOL Okay, I understand the laughter better now. I thought it was Schadenfreude, but maybe it was just that it was simply not expected and that Miko's mother was so emotional about his quitting that made them laugh b/c I guess there was humor to the whole Jules storyline.

Yeah definitely, especially since Jules himself was sort of funny about the whole thing. happy.png I think I need to watch it again, maybe the audience will be calmer next time haha...

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Finally we will have Canadian screenings:

Opening July 20, 2012

Toronto – Bell Light Box

Montreal – The Forum

Opening Early August, 2012 (exact date and venues TBD very soon)

Vancouver Opening August 17, 2012

Ottawa – Bytowne Opening August 28, 2012

Waterloo – Princess Cinema

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Excellent news! I'll let my friends in Ottawa know.

I first saw "First Position" at VIFF, and I look forward to seeing it again in August.

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Finally we will have Canadian screenings:

Opening July 20, 2012

Toronto – Bell Light Box

Montreal – The Forum

Opening Early August, 2012 (exact date and venues TBD very soon)

Vancouver Opening August 17, 2012

Ottawa – Bytowne Opening August 28, 2012

Waterloo – Princess Cinema

Don't mean to be the "correction police" but I just checked Bytowne's website, the documentary is playing from Aug 17-23 instead.

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Finally we will have Canadian screenings:

Opening July 20, 2012

Toronto – Bell Light Box

Montreal – The Forum

Opening Early August, 2012 (exact date and venues TBD very soon)

Vancouver Opening August 17, 2012

Ottawa – Bytowne Opening August 28, 2012

Waterloo – Princess Cinema

Don't mean to be the "correction police" but I just checked Bytowne's website, the documentary is playing from Aug 17-23 instead.

Thanks for the Bytowne update. The dates I gave were the ones on the First Position website but I'm sure the Bytowne knows better than it does what it has playing when! smile.png

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Just found this on the Varna thread:

II. GROUP "B" - JUNIORS

The title "25th INTERNATIONAL BALLET COMPETITION - VARNA 2012 LAUREATE" shall be awarded, as well as the following distinctions:

....

Three Third Class Distinctions - Diploma and Medal

Min Jung Kim, Korea, Nataly Bratanova, Bulgaria and Miko Fogarty, USA

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The movie's FB page just linked a short "Baltimore Magazine" article about Rebecca Houseknecht, in which she discusses why she left Washington Ballet and what she's doing now.

The DVD of the film was released this past Tuesday.

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The DVD of the film was released this past Tuesday.

......and it is available on Netflix. I just got it in the mail, but I haven't watched it yet.

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I finally got around to renting the First Position DVD. I was in no hurry, having read so many commentaries on the film over the last year. And I just wanted to mention that I had exactly the same reaction to it as Birdsall describes so well here:

People mentioned the Japanese mother and how the audience they witnessed thought negatively about her, but my mother, who is Japanese, is the exact same way. I actually expected her to be way worse after reading the comments here. I really didn't see anything wrong with her. Her daughter seems to want to dance. She's not forcing her to dance, and she let her son quit. So she's not forcing him. I don't really see how she was bad in any way. Asian mothers want the best for their children, and they love them 100%. Their whole lives center around their children, but they can be strict. My mother was strict, but it was coupled with immense love. I read an article that authoritarian parenting has a bad rap as "bad parenting" in the U.S. but Asian mothers often use authoritarian parenting methods but almost always coupled with lots of love. That makes a huge difference. I don't think Asians would find her negative in any way. But I do think it is probably unusual for most Americans.

I also did not feel like Rebecca came off as a joke. To me she didn't look like she had it all or was privileged. She looked very middle class and her parents were hoping she'd get a scholarship b/c they were investing in her "career" so money was obviously an issue for them. They weren't rolling in cash. That didn't seem like a privileged person at all. I felt like Miko had a much more privileged existence than Rebecca. I also expected Rebecca to be annoying since I read that audiences mocked her, but I thought she seemed like a nice person who had talent.

Joan Sebastian's story was truly like a fairy tale. He said he looked up to Carlos Acosta, and then he got a scholarship to the Royal Ballet. It is an incredible story. If anything the phone calls with his parents sounded much more like Tiger Parents than Miko's mother did. But then he visited them, and I saw how much love they had for their son, and that balanced it out. I am a firm believer that as long as you love your child and show it, you can be strict and/or mean at times and it won't matter. You just can't be mean all the time without balancing it with love.

And like Elena, I just didn't have any problem with Rebecca just because she was obsessed with pink and princesses - she was a normal teenager, and she had obvious talent. So there she was. And obviously only a few can win the scholarships and contracts at YAGP. But what the film fails to mention is that YAGP is hardly the only way to get into a company. I'd love to know just how many principals and soloists have won major contests, and how many have not. I'm willing to bet there is a large percentage of great dancers who were never contest winners.

I found myself rooting for all of them, yes even Rebecca. I was especially happy to see Joan win the scholarship, my heart went out to him because he does seem to have enormous pressure to succeed (and his family doesn't have bad intentions, it is just the facts of where they are from). All in all I enjoyed it. smile.png

And the Aran Bell and Gaya Yemini friendship was super, well, cute. They both came across as great kids with tremendous talent. I really hope they are able to continue on with dance and really develop as artists.

I was more frustrated with the lack of overall details about YAGP and other similar contests. And I wanted to know more about how the scholarships/contracts worked - what schools and companies were offering scholarships/contracts at YAGP and how is it decided which dancers go where.

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You're not going to see many prize winners outside Prix de Lausanne, which leads to a school.scholarship to elite company schools, because the companies that recruit primarily out of their own schools discourage competitions and don't support the preparation, while frowning on the distraction and misplaced energies.

When they hire from outside the schools, it's because someone passed the audition process or was invited to join the company based on their professional accomplishments.

Some.schools groom their kids for competition: it's clear the Rock School does, as is shown in the doc. SAB shudders at the thought: it keeps its students busy enough.

If you look at the judges panel, that should give a good idea of who is recruiting, but maybe more for their summer programs, given the age ranges, or their schools, not directly into a company.

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If you look at the judges panel, that should give a good idea of who is recruiting, but maybe more for their summer programs, given the age ranges, or their schools, not directly into a company.

And if you look at the bios of most dancers in companies today they have often spent a chunk of time at the most elite school they could get into. That seems to be a more important element than competition accomplishments.

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I worry that these competitions will make more money / fame for the judges than for the competitors.

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