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First Position ballet documentary


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Have started a new thread for this as the other thread went way off topic! :-)

 

I have seen a couple of reviews in our national press that indicates that this is now showing in the UK. Has anyone managed to see it yet? I'm guessing it will be on restricted release but we have several excellent independent cinemas near where I live and I can't see it listed at any of them :-(

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I saw the film advertised on an email from the ISTD and myself and DD watched this yesterday at a Curzon cinema in Knutsford (I'd never even heard of Curzon until a couple of days ago).

 

The younger students were amazingly flexible and it was very interesting to watch.

 

I expected the cinema to be fairly full but there was a total audience of 5!

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I managed to watch this on line last year through a link from this website.  It was very interesting and fascinating to watch.  The dancers were very talented and very lucky to have dedicated teachers working and travelling alongside them.  I am happy we watched on line and didnt pay cinema prices to watch, good insight though if it was a true reflection.

Ann x

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This year's YAGP is now in its final week, with the finals tomorrow (17th April) and the gala performance (''Stars of Today Meet the Stars of tomorrow") the following day.  Unfortunately, the live broadcast of this week's activities isn't cheap: http://www.visualartsmasters.com/purchase-live-broadcast-access. - though they do have a daily videoblog , currently at http://www.youtube.com/user/vamproductions/featured (So far it's without narration - unlike the detailed videoblogs of the Prix de Lausanne, which also broadcasts its final without charge). Of the free videos at the YAGP site: http://www.yagp.org/eng/yagp_videos.php - a very interesting one is "How Judges Judge" - http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13164978 - Seven contestants from the 2011 competition perform their variations in front of the judges (including RBS' Gailene Stock), who give detailed feedback on the performances and comments about what they are looking for.

 

Yaffa

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Saw this film on Tuesday 16th April at he Curzon in Mayfair in London(just round the corner from Green Park). It's on in the other Curzons this week in Chelsea and Richmond too. The Curzon cinemas are really nice....much better than a multiplex experience. However regards this film even at the Curzon only showing in the mornings and afternoons .....no evening showings ....so difficult for people who work. Wish I had seen this site earlier as I believe only showing until this weekend in London. Having seen the film I think it deserves a much wider audience not just for balletomanes like myself....as the individual stories are so interesting and have plenty of human interest....I didn't expect to be moved to tears by this film but I was!! If you are a balletomane you will love it particularly and you can't help almost cheering at the end at some of the results. I loved all the characters even Miko's mum who just wants the best for her kids and as the film demonstrates so well you can't keep someone at ballet if they don't really want to do it just like anything else once it gets to a certain level of difficulty. However have been chasing and waiting for this film for past eight months so may be biassed!! The film is being distributed in UK by Artificial Eye who do have a website and they may know where it's going next it's just such a shame that because only just a week of showings in mornings and afternoons even in London so,many people will be denied seeing it who wouldn't probably bother to get DVD etc. Hope it comes on terrestrial tv soon so can wallow in it all over again!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes......I think there must be another thread on the site somewhere about this film as have left a comment there can't find it now!!

I'd been keeping track of this film for nearly 8 months and finally saw it n London at a Curzon cinema.

It was only on for a week and only at a morning showing......great for people who work!!!

I think the reason for this is they don't think it's for the general audience but I would disagree though if you enjoy ballet obviously increases your enjoyment.

 

Basically it follows the fortunes of some students trying to win scholarships etc by winning competitions in this case YAGP in America. All the students have very different stories and they are all interesting......this is where general public might enjoy as well as the ballet fans....I didn't expect this film to move me to tears but it did and I couldn't help wanting them all to win a top prize!!

Of course it was made some years ago now and one of the contestants did quite well in the Prix de Lausanne recently (Miko).

I could go into more detail but won't.....Its definitely worth seeing.....if you can catch it that is....the distribution is very disappointing and such a shame too. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because had waited so long to see it and gone to considerable lengths to track it's slow progress out of the States!! But I think it's a little gem!

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It turns out there was also a thread in Doing Dance - fairly understandably, since it's about ballet competitions - but I thought I'd merge them all out here in the hopes of getting an extended audience.

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I was lucky enough to see this, quite by chance, whilst in the USA last year (I’d never heard of it at that point).  I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe anyone who loves ballet will too, so I’d recommend a viewing.  It became even more interesting when I realised that one of the dancers (who looked very familiar) was by then studying at the Royal Ballet Upper School.  (I’m not mentioning the dancer by name as I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to on this site ).  Also – the DVD will be available from Amazon at the end of this month (my copy is pre-ordered!). 

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Yes it was on in Brighton too(where I live) but suddenly got email from Duke of York cinema there and it was only on for ONE day and again in the morning. Anyone who received that email may not have had time to arrange to see it......so I'm glad I saw inLondon in the end or I would have waited 8 months and then missed it!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry you didn't enjoy ChocChip as I say I had been trying to see it for 8months so this probably enhanced the experience for me!!! But nevertheless thought the stories of the students were interesting and thought that the ending was generally uplifting....I almost cheered out loud at one result (the boy who got the scholarship/sponsorship to the Royal Ballet).

I haven't seen the other film you mentioned" Tutumuch" .....is this just on DVD or is it a cinema release too?

The problem with these types of films is usually poor times for showing at local cinemas as they not seen as general public interest and they obviously assume that all ballet lovers are free in the daytime sewing on ballet ribbons and don't have a working life!!!

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Here's the Tutumuch info on wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutu_Much
It's been released in 2010.
 

This is a quote from the plot:
"Those that do make it face a difficult decision - spend their childhood and teen years away from their families and focusing on the daily strains of ballet training, or live as a normal teenager."

 

The film started as an audition for Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Summer School Program. The school first picked the girls for the summer school program. After the summer the teachers decided which ones were suitable for a professional career and offered them to stay for a whole year (considering body structure, technique, ability to learn and progress, determination ... they were monitoring the girls through out the summer to see whether they had all that).

 

And the school picked 4 girls for Clara's role for the annual school performance of Nutcracker.

 

The most touching story for me was one of the girls' who was picked for Clara. I don't remember her name, but she was red-haired. She had everything she needed to become a professional ballet dancer but she decided not to do that. The plot was designed to make us see ballet the way girls saw it and how they felt about becoming a ballerina and whether they felt prepared emotionally for that decision .

The red-haired girl was picked from probably hundreds of girls for Clara's role. The film showed her hesitation and her decision not to take this opportunity. She decided she need to spend her teen years as a normal teenager and to stay close to her parents.

 

The film was more about the girls' awareness of what it took to become a ballet dancer rather than the competition for the auditions itself.

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Yes I can understand some kids not wanting to move away from home....it's a big step especially at 11 and maybe also depends exactly how far away!! 50 miles away is one thing 1000 plus miles away in another country quite another!

 

Depends on personality a lot. Personally I would have loved it but I know other families where children have gone away from home to school,not necessarily ballet school, and two kids will love it and two hate it. So other decisions have to be made for the kids who hate it unless you are capable of completely overlooking or not caring about your kids feelings of course.

 

But lots of dancers make it who didn't have to leave home at least not before 16. Again that might depend on where you live to have this choice.

Also some lovely dancers who do get into companies even, may not necessarily last long there not because they are not good enough but because they cannot take the stress of the balletic life in the long run.

Anyway thanks ChocChip this film also looks good and I would like to see it so will keep an eye out or is it only on DVD?

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It was released on DVD and you can purchase it online.

Probably we should start a new topic because this topic was meant to be for First Position Documentary.

 

Kitschqueen_1 started this topic. If she allows I can find and post the site here.

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I saw First Position Documentary last year at this time and posted in my take on it - in another thread....here's what I wrote....

 

Have just returned from seeing "First Position," a documentary which follows seven young dancers as they prepare for and participate in the Youth America Grand Prix.

The contestants range in age from as young as ten to about 17. The amount of work, investment and sacrifice from everyone - dance students, parents, families - is an enormous burden placed on very young shoulders. For at least one of the students - a very engaging and talented young man from Columbia (who recieved a full scholarship to the RB Upper School ) - his family sees this as the only possible way out of difficult living conditions for him - and possibly a path to a better future for his younger siblings as well as for the entire family. He is aware of this burden every moment. He accepts it willingly which is so poignant in so young a person.

Another family - primarily the mother - will stop at nothing and is well into the extreme in stretching, work, dieting, and expectations of her daughter. Though the child is willing, the child is not of an age to truly understand that this is indeed extreme. The mother knows very well that she is certainly well beyond the norm with a much too thin 12 yr old daughter, the hours of work and stretching, Watching a "coach" and/or the mother stretch this little girl is almost sickening. When the child "only" ends up with a bronze medal - the mother says she will hire someone else to coach her daughter through even more extreme stretching. Yes, the mother does use the word "extreme" - this is not my word - it is her's. Though the child is willing - this really is into child abuse.

Another beautiful young dancer, born in Sierra Leone, was an orphan; a tiny little girl with a mottled black skin and therefore an outcast in her own society. She was adopted by an American family and lovingly raised. Having gotten all the way to the YGAP finals in NYC, she develops Achilles tendonitis. She knows that if she competes she risks tearing that tendon and never dancing again. Luckily she makes it and in fact wins a scholarship with ABT. But what if that tendon had torn?

Some of the things which are haunting....

The announcer as the medals are given out to the 10, 11, 12 yr olds -- calls the category a "woman's" group. Women? They are 10, 11, 12!! I know that is a picky detail on my part - but for me it demonstrates a complete loss of perspective.

I noticed that when the kids are on stage to receive their awards those who get bronze or silver medals looked so sad. In fact except for the very few scholarship winners - they all look sad.

Some of the Contemporary dances really do look almost like the floor exercise in gymnastics - no flips - but almost.

There were some oversplits in classical variations.

Several boys were costumed in black shirts and trousers against a dark background - will costumers never learn?

A number of the young dancers obviously had a pet trick which they used over and over again.

A couple of the teachers/coaches would in any other setting be accused of child abuse - slapping, pulling, jerkiing, twisting young bodies.

All of these youngsters are literally consumed (knowingly or not) by dance. One shows off his foot stretching device - reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition - as he explains how painful it is. Torquemada would be proud.

Bloody feet of both boys and girls are almost proudly displayed - distorted toes, blackened fungus nails, tender red bunions - they are teenagers!!

By the time a youngster is of an age to truly make an informed consent the investment is already consuming everyone involved.

Would I recommend this movie? Yes, I would. If you like the idea of competitions you will enjoy it. If you do not, or are ambivalent - this might help you to understand the process.

The above is my opinion - for what it's worth - nothing more. I don't pretend that it is free of prior bias.

There were times I found myself in tears - there's got to be a better way.
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I agree in part with the bit about Miko and Jules mum in the film but in the end Jules doesn't stick at it because its not really his thing and although mum was a bit over upset at this she didn't force him because you can't really with something like ballet. Miko is the one with the passion and perhaps mum capitalises a tad too much on this.......my only reservation.....as with all kids into too many competitions will they burn out too soon.....will they get bored in a corps de ballet having danced so many main variations from the ballets already!! Some of the disappointment may also be around money.....they need to get access to funds I suppose. To me the most moving story was the boy from Columbia as I felt he was obviously homesick but at least he as a bit older....and the good news about him is he is now in the Royal Ballet Company so has at least achieved his dream from all the sacrifice.

In the scene towards the end where we see Jules with that wry smile of his( what a dear little soul) concentrating on his books and muttering in somewhat desultory fashion about mum wanting him to "get to Harvard or something" .....I definitely got the impression he was a survivor and would probably in fact make a good comedian.....confounding all mums efforts anyway!!

Also Miko was in the Prix de Lausanne recently(rather strangely had become Swiss!!) and when interviewed there she seemed pretty unspoilt and even shy still inspite of everything. At least all the kids in this film had the undying support of their parents even if some were a little too over involved.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Pre-empting tomorrow's Links: Guardian ballet critic Judith Mackrell has now seen First Position and, whilst she appears to have been taken by it, raises a number of questions as a result ... with echoes of Anjuli's post, above:

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/jun/12/young-dancers-swan-before-hatches?CMP=twt_fd

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Is this the whole review? really she is bringing into discussion the possible exploitation of children exposing them in this way to such extreme scrutiny in these types of competitions ...rather than its a straight review of the film.

However these are important issues and as I have said before the obvious one being burn out for those who are more successful (and so go on to do more) and rather disheartening and public rejection as such if one has put heart and soul in and gets no prize!

 

One has to be so careful what one says on forums like these...one can be so open to misinterpretation. Although I said I really enjoyed this film,which I did, and I think Bess Kargman did a good job in making it, this doesn't mean I think it's a good idea to do all these competitions far from it....I probably would not have allowed my child to do any public competition before the age of 16....I say probably because I do not have children(unfortunately) and don't know how easy it might have been to get drawn in if ballet teachers /sports teachers whatever etc were keen for this.

My own mother kept well away mostly...only coming to end of year shows etc.....she never watched a ballet class...mostly because I didn't want her to!! And she certainly did not sew my ribbons etc on after the age of 12!! But she had her feet on the ground in making sure the academics were kept up as well so I would probably have been similar.....though might have insisted on watching the odd class or two!! But putting young children through the pressure of public competitions especially to try to win scholarships is not something I personally support.

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