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Film review: First Position (U)


It's all tutu exciting as six young ballet dancers devote themselves to a gruelling year's preparation for the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix in New York.

Bess Kargman's documentary gets up close and personal with each subject, be it 16-year-old Joan from the lowly reaches of Colombia, 14-year-old Michaela, a war orphan from Sierra Leone, or 12-year-old Miko, a self-possessed ballerina driven to the limit by her tightly wound tiger mom.

Given the expense of training and the paucity of openings, the competition is a crucial day for these young hopefuls – this is their chance for a scholarship at an academy, a once-in-a-lifetime shot at making it.

What's cheering to see is how gracious and amiable these kids are; there's no sense of entitlement, just obsessive hard work and a wry acknowledgement of the ballet dancer's lot: "This is me cheerleading," says 17-year-old Rebecca, gazing at a school photo. "Another attempt at normalcy." It shouldn't matter whether they succeed or not, but Kargman's careful editing and pacing make it impossible not to care.