First Position | Chicago Reader

First Position

Documentaries about children's competitions (Spellbound et al) have become so rigidly formulaic you begin to wonder whether what you're watching isn't just reality TV with theatrical distribution. For this entry, filmmaker Bess Kargman follows seven aspiring young ballet dancers as they prepare for the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York; this international contest offers prizes, scholarships, and the chance to be seen by ballet professionals from around the world. The kids are beautiful, talented, driven, and disciplined, and almost all of them win something by the end. The congratulatory tone tends to dampen any sense of dramatic rivalry, but the contestants' individual stories are often compelling: 11-year-old Aran Bell lives on a U.S. navy base in Italy and commutes two hours for ballet lessons, while 14-year-old Michaela DePrince endured the horrors of civil war in Sierra Leone before she was adopted by a Philadelphia couple.



  • Bess Kargman

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