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First Position - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
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First Position is to ballet dancing what Spellbound was to spelling bees and more closely, what Every Little Step was to Broadway performers. In other words, a doco featuring a selection of diverse young people aspiring to make their dreams come true and reach the top of their field.

There's something inspirational and awe inspiring about watching people so single mindedly dedicated to their craft from such an early age and have developed a truly incredible talent. Such is the case with these individuals from different walks of life whose prime aim in life to this point is being recognised at the Youth America Grand Prix, which could lead to prizes, scholarships and careers in the highly competitive world of ballet.

Although an American doco focussing on a domestic competition, the six aspirants featured include a stoic 14 year old Sierre Leone refugee whose parents were killed and has been raised by a very proud Jewish American adoptive mother, an angelic Columbian boy from a poor family and a 12 year old Japanese American whose mother has very big plans for her little girl (and her not so dedicated or talented little brother). These and three other youngsters possess moves that have to be seen to be believed.

With everything on the line, you just wish they could all gain the awards and scholarships they so richly deserve, especially since they all come across as such likeable, well adjusted youngsters. But of course, the nature of competition is that not everyone can win.

The gob smacking on-stage performances are obvious highlights, but a great deal of what makes First Position so enjoyable is the humour, derived as much from the eccentric coaches, choreographers and parents as from the winsome dancers themselves. It's especially refreshing that none of the parents or mentors come across as stereotypically draconian. The film however inevitably reaches maximum impact as the big competition final is staged and dreams are crushed and stars are born. Its impossible not to be swept up in the emotion felt by the competitors.

If you don't already have great respect for professional dancers, you will after seeing this.

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Why? A highly entertaining and awe inspiring documentary
Where: At selected cinemas around the country
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