The Youth American Grand Prix is the world’s largest ballet competition that awards full scholarships and job contracts to dancers ages 9-19. Each year over 5,000 dancers enter the Youth American Grand Prix semi-finals held in 15 cities around the world. Only a few hundred dancers make it to the finals in New York City. On the final day at the end of the competition 30 elite Ballet institutions awards scholarships, contracts, and medals to the most promising dancers.
Now, I know I am a little late joining the party since this film came out in 2012 but, First Position shows the dedication, determination, and pressures that young dancers face during their training. This documentary follows six dancers on their journey to the Youth American Grand Prix and some them have technique and talent that I have never seen at such a young age. Aran, 11, is by far my favorite in this documentary. He is a military kid who travels two hours to Rome, Italy for the best Ballet training at La Masion de la Danse. Being a boy, he faces the pressures of society and his peers with being a male Ballet dancer. He has coped with it by ignoring it because Ballet is something that he loves. The stereotype that Aran continues to fight doesn’t surprise me because most boys who get teased for it drop out of ballet by Jr. High School. Miko, 12 & Rebecca, 17 talks about how there friends don’t understand the disciple that is needed to be a ballet dancer. Besides going to school they have cross training, many dance classes, and rehearsals everyday to stay in peak performance form. Joan, 16 moved away from his family from Colombia to New York City to train and didn’t know the language at first.
The amount of sacrifice these children have for the love of dance is something to admire. Few people find their calling in life and even fewer people are willing to do what is necessary to reach success. Miko switched to home-schooling so she could spend more time at the studio. Micheala, 14 was suffering an inflammation of tendentious in her Achilles heel during the finals of the Prix. These kids are not the only ones who have to put in a tremendous amount of effort, the parents have to be just as supportive and dedicated as the students. The parents assist with costumes being dyed, created, and purchased. They pay for the lessons, private coaching, and transportation to and from the studios. And they are the rock when there is a mess up on stage and all you want to do is have a pity party and beat yourself up. I think Miko’s mother said it best, “When bad things happen on stage that is my fault, when good things happen that is all her.”
The documentary shows how a student’s dance that they have practice a hundred times can not go as well on stage as it did in the studio. Falls, stage fright, or a mis-step can throw off your whole piece and can take you out of the running for recognition. Then you have to start back at square one; proving yourself. Everyone that isn’t a dancer is probably asking themselves why do these kids put themselves through this? It’s hard to explain, but I best thought process is have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do anything to get it? That’s these kids. I don’t want to spoil anything so if you want to see what happens to the ballet journey of Miko, Rebecca, Michaela, Joan, and Aran I suggest you watch First Position. This documentary takes you backstage into a world of strength, heartbreak, and dedication of kids who are beyond their years.
Watch the documentary now on Netflix. Click Here for the trailer.