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First Position: a documentary about what it takes to be a professional dancer

I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see this film due to its limited engagement.  But when my husband was flipping through On Demand the other day, I saw it and asked him if he’d like to watch it with me.

For those who don’t know me, I started studying ballet at the age of 7 and continued through high school. I even when to a private arts college, danced 7 hours a day for 4 years, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance.  From then I began teaching ballet.  I taught for over twelve years and also directed a small dance company for a few years in the middle.  I recently retired from teaching ballet at the age of 37, because I noticed my knees and now hips are “cranky”.  I wish to still be walking and active at 77, so I gave my joints a break.  I now teach fitness, and have noticed a difference in my body without the constant pounding on my knees from jumping, and stress on my hips from turn out.

This film was very well done, and I highly encourage anyone who has ever been remotely curious about dance to see it.  Consider it the equivalent to any number of sports films highlighting what it takes to be a professional athlete.  This movie features six kids (9-19) and allows us a rare view into their world of “dance is my everything”.  I’d like to state clearly that film is indeed the real deal, a glimpse into the life of an advanced, highly talented, pre-professional dancer.  The dancer’s teachers are of the highest caliber; more often they are ex-professional dancers, teaching at some of the most prestigious dance schools in the world.  These are not local mom & pop dance schools.  This is not every other weekend, money generating, everyone’s a winner, mediocre dance competition.  This is not Dance Moms, which is an abomination and an absolute disgrace to the dance community (don’t get me started!).

Those elite few, whose talent and skill level is well beyond their age, are able to compete in the ONLY ballet competition of any merit – the annual Youth American Grand Prix.  Over $250,000 in scholarships are awarded at this international event, with the final round in New York.  This is also where professional dance companies from all over the world come to recruit new students and possibly even offer performing company contracts.  For the dancers of the movie, the buck stops here.  This is where their dream has the potential of being fulfilled.

This documentary shows the sacrifice that not only the dancers make, but often the entire family so the dancer can go to the best school, have the best teachers and have the necessary funding to keep dancing.  Class, private lessons, tuition, costumes, shoes, tights, choreographer fess, entry fees, airfare, hotels, gas, the list of costs is endless.  Some students even leave public school and start home school to have more time for dance.

I can’t stress enough the amazing level of the young dancers in the film.  Several of them overcome enormous adversity to achieve their dream.  It’s also not unheard of for a dancer from a less fortunate country to come to the US for the best training.  Then, not only do they have the regular stress of working externality hard, never-ending sore muscles, and endless training, but they are also away from their family.

My journey in dance was not that extreme.  Nonetheless I certainly had the passion and drive to do the very best I could.  I was a lucky white girl from Olympia whose parents gave a great deal for me to pursue my dream.



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