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First PositionDocumentary about YAGP 2010 by Bess Kargman


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#46 SandyMcKean

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 10:37 AM

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.

#47 pherank

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 09:12 PM

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. Posted Image


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.

#48 Helene

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:42 PM

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.

#49 sandik

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 11:22 AM

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.

#50 Jayne

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 12:04 PM

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

#51 pherank

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:03 PM

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.


So the judging panel isn't at all 'neutral'? It's made up of recruiters from the interested schools/companies? That is kind of disappointing, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

#52 sandik

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:20 PM


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.


So the judging panel isn't at all 'neutral'? It's made up of recruiters from the interested schools/companies? That is kind of disappointing, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised.


They're neutral in a way, but this is a small world we work in, and people have multiple affiliations.

#53 pherank

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:39 PM

They're neutral in a way, but this is a small world we work in, and people have multiple affiliations.


I'm neutral in a way too, until I open my big mouth. ;)
I was impressed to see Sergei Filin in one of the shots (sitting behind the English ballet school director, I believe it was), but I doubt the Bolshoi recruits much that way for school or company.

#54 Helene

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 04:02 PM

So the judging panel isn't at all 'neutral'? It's made up of recruiters from the interested schools/companies? That is kind of disappointing, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I think so-called neutrality is important only if the goal is to choose who had the best performance, and even then, judges' personal preferences for style and content are part of the assessment process. Not all ballet or arts competitions have that as the only or even a goal: many are just as interested in potential.

Where the judging panel is part of the institution that is doing the choosing, or are choosing on behalf of a single institution, like the Met Opera Council Auditions, it's all about potential and the ability to sing at the Met and meet the company's needs The Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition is all about choosing potential major Wagner singers, not just for Seattle Opera. For Seattle Opera, so far, Speight Jenkins has only cast non-winners, Jason Collins as Froh in the 2009 Ring and Steersman in "Dutchman and Carsten Wittmoser as Ramfis in one cast of "Aida", although 2006 co-winner, Miriam Murphy, might have been hired as a cover. (She's listed in Operabase as the Gerhilde in this summer's "Das Rheingold" but the Seattle Opera website lists Wendy Bryn Hamer in the role.)

One of the upsides of looking for potential is that in many ways, it doesn't matter whether a dancer wins one of the official competition awards: if someone on the panel likes a dancer and offers that dancer a scholarship to its summer program, that has nothing to do with anyone else on the judging panel or whether that person wins the prize. Likewise, not being chosen by, for example, Adam Sklyte might mean that dancer's type (physical or stylistic) doesn't fit into what he's likely to need in the near future, or he might be waiting to see what that dancer is like in a few years.

#55 pherank

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 04:39 PM

One of the upsides of looking for potential is that in many ways, it doesn't matter whether a dancer wins one of the official competition awards: if someone on the panel likes a dancer and offers that dancer a scholarship to its summer program, that has nothing to do with anyone else on the judging panel or whether that person wins the prize.


That is what I was wondering. It certainly sounds better if the judges are looking for potential over time, and not just a performance without any noticeable mistakes.

So there must be times when a particular dancer at YAGP is given competing offers, and the others hope most of all to be noticed, and remembered, by the powers that be.

#56 Helene

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 04:46 PM

(Sometimes it takes being quoted to realize that I wrote a circular sentence. I'm just glad you managed to understand my point, nonetheless :))

#57 vipa

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 05:54 PM

I've often wondered how this hiring from competition thing works. For women, a major company will rarely - really never hire a competition winner as a soloist or principal. So if hired, after spending a lot of time working on virtuoso solos, the dancer has to be in the corps of Swan Lake or what ever. I know that in ABT Zhong-Jing Fang, Sarah Lane, and Hee Seo were all competition winners. Fang is still in the corps after about 8 years. Lane is a soloist and Seo a recent principal, I just wonder how these dancers took to the being in the corps after being so focused on their competition solos.

#58 Helene

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 01:02 AM

Almost all of the top students in the company pre-professional schools are stars of their student performances, dancing the major roles, and almost all of them start as apprentices or corps members. There are rare exceptions to that, and some may get soloist and principal roles from the get-go, but rarely exclusively. I would think that competition winners would have the same expectations as top students at SAB, for example, and the same hopes that they'll rise quickly through the ranks and put their corps days behind them.

#59 California

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Posted 30 June 2013 - 12:25 PM

"First Position" is scheduled for broadcast on Bravo on basic cable Friday, July 5, very early morning.




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