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By Jess Fenton
9th June 2012

‘Black Swan’ taught us about the saucy backstage antics of being an elite ballerina. The competitiveness and pressures to become and remain “perfect” were paramount, but that was only half the story. The real battle is getting to that point, and it all starts with ‘First Position’. This fabulous documentary strips away the obvious competition and focuses on the lives and families of the children performing in the Youth American Grand Prix, the junior Olympics of ballet competitions. Held in 15 cities across the globe and culminating with the finals in New York City, thousands of young ballet dancers are vying for scholarships and invitations to the top companies in the world - in other words, their lives. Following the journeys of seven entrants from around the globe, ‘First Position’ does its best to break these lives free of the preconceived notion that all young dancers are void of a real childhood, are performing automatons, are victims of “stage parenting” and that they get no real joy from their ambition.


The money and dedication that goes into grooming such a career is virtually unparalleled. A child’s dream of becoming a prima ballerina is not just a commitment on their part but that of their parents and families as well. ‘First Position’ showcases talents and personalities from all walks of life such as Aran - an army child living in Italy whose father took a six month stint in Kuwait so his son could live closer to a top ballet school. Joan Sebastian - 16, living in New York away from his home in Colombia. Not only is he doing what no one in his family has ever done, but no one in Colombia has ever done either. There’s Miko and Jules, the brother, sister, stage mum trio. Rebecca the princess. Michaela, the Sierra Lone orphan nobody wanted who is now trying to smash the mould of the ballerina. And lastly, Gaya from Israel - far beyond her years in her performance style with her wacky choreographer mother by her side.

In an industry that is cutting back on dancers rather than hiring new ones, these kids are travelling the world, making countless sacrifices and dancing with injuries football players don’t even get, all to chase a dream that might not even be possible. Don’t let the pink tights and hairspray fool you - the ballet world is tough.

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