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Documentaries: First Position

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Whole family went to see it last night. What a great documentary. Very personal and a great glimpse into the lives of the kids. I think it actually did not make it seem like YAGP was the be all and end all to get a contract. To me, it correctly represented the fact that the kids competing in this competition all want to be at the top. Their sense of urgency was not lost on me. It was obvious that not even the top ones got contracts or offers for year round programs. Just a few. I wonder if they followed others but did not use them in the film because their story was not compelling for the producer. I imagine there were a few that ended up on the cutting room floor. But it was fun to see so many of DDs contemporaries (some she knows, and some we all just know of of course) and she was just glued to the screen and seemed to love every moment of it. We even saw a teacher or 2 of hers in shots throughout the film. That was fun!

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I saw this documentary this week. I have to say that, as a parent of a kid who participated in YAGP for a few years, it triggered mixed feelings in me, and I will be the first to admit that my response was less than objective. I thought the young dancers were amazing, but there were a couple of things that I also found slightly disturbing. I came away feeling exhausted! I'm interested to see what my dd thinks when she finally gets to see it, especially as she has met some of these kids backstage, at summer programs, etc..


I suppose given my bias of disliking the entire competition concept I did find myself wishing and hoping for a documentary that focused on an American ballet school (like the various Russian and French ones out there), but I suppose that's not terribly original or interesting to the American public. The new documentary on Ballet West will have to suffice, I suppose!

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I saw it in Indianapolis with a full house - fantastic! I hope you all get to see it soon! I already knew the outcomes of the dancers, but it still was a little emotional to watch the ups and downs for them. As a mom, your heart just goes out to each one and you just want them all to do so well. :)

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Saw the movie yesterday with my DD and a few others from her studio. I was moved by two dancers' personal stories. Having a young DD (age 11), it was a little terrifying from a parental viewpoint

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Like Love's Labor I have mixed feelings about this film. I do wonder what will happen to the kids as the grow up and get their adult bodies. Will they continue to dance, will they burn out, etc.? The article about Rebecca was very interesting and I am glad to know that she was able to dance and that even though she decided that dancing as a career was not for her, she is continuing it in some form at college. It is something she will be able to enjoy her whole life. LIke Swanchat I'd like to see a movie in a couple of years that shows updates on the featured performers. My favorites were Joan- I am glad he got the scholarship to The Royal Ballet and hope he succeeds in his career. I also liked Michaela (although as a parent, knowing that she was only 14 and that there are several years of competition ahead), I don't know if I would have let my child compete with a potential career ending injury. But everyone has to do what is best for them and their family. I hope that she will be able to go back to Sierra Leone one day and start a dance school. Just imagine the dreams that she could inspire in a new generation of dancers if she is able to accomplish that dream.

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Saw the movie last night On Demand. Overall my husband and I enjoyed the movie but felt a couple of things didn't ring true. For me the first one was that Rebecca made it to finals after the trouble she had with her classical piece. Maybe rules have changed but I thought it was a combined score that was needed to make it to the final round. And if only 200 out of 2000 make it how could she have made the top 10 percent with that piece? There had to be other students that had higher scores with cleaner performances. Also I read an article in which Rebecca said she was yelling, crying and swearing after that performance and that the director of the movie contacted her to be followed in the movie because of her spirit. I had actually commented to my husband that in the movie she was pretty calm after what had happened. My daughter would have been hysterical


Also there was never any mention of Michaela seeing a doctor or being treated in any way for her injury. Nor was there any discussion with her parents about whether to continue or not. If there was the possibility of a career ending injury at 14 for my daughter I might tell her to wait until she is 15 to compete.


These are small things that don't necessarily impact the fine job that the director did with the movie, but it does make you question how accurate documentaries really are. Guess you must take all things with a grain of salt.

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My husband and I really liked it, aside from Miko's story. Hers broke our hearts, I grew up with a mom similar to hers and well, lets just say I'm STILL dealing with issues stemming from my upbringing.


We both really liked Michaela, it's nice to see more "womanly" bodies become more accepted.


We both enjoy dancers that look like real people, not prepubescent children. My favorite dancer of all time dances with Joffrey of Chicago and she has curves. She's absolutely gorgeous to watch.

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We saw it today. I really liked it. My daughters have never done YAGP. But a dancer from our studio has and she qualified for the NY finals this year of the documentary (2010) based on the strength of her contemporary piece. So I think you can make it in one category or the other.


I listened to an interview with the director, and she talked about the drive of the dancers. She said that the dancer has to have the drive, if someone else has more drive than you do, you won't make it. Of course we would think that Miko's mom perhaps is driving this situation with her daughter. But the director who spent a lot of time with the dancers and should know them pretty well actually used Miko as an example. She said "if Miko's mom said all of a sudden that she was done, she wasn't going to drive Miko to ballet any more. I guarantee you Miko would say 'I'll walk'"


So although the mother is clearly invested, the director said that Miko is driving that dream. But the film should have made that more clear.

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I saw the world premiere at TIFF in September. Many of the featured dancers were there and they participated in the audience Q&A after the screening. Miko's mom was practically crawling across audience members -- strangers! -- to take photos (there were perfectly well-accessible aisles she could have used). Then she chimed in with a self-aggrandizing "question": something along the lines of, "I want to thank you for showing everything we do as parents to support our children's dreams." You can make of that, the film, interviews, etc., what you will, but she didn't leave a positive impression on me in person or on film.


The children, however, all seemed lovely in person. The contrast between their confidence in their dancing and their age-appropriate nervousness in being asked public questions by strangers was pretty charming.

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I watched the documentary via my cable "on demand." It's very much like the spelling bee film "Spellbound" - an assortment of appealling kids from various backgrounds and you're rooting for all of them.


I especially enjoyed the dancing from the American boy trained in Italy and the young Israeli girl - wonderful expression in her performances. (Very sweet offstage interaction between the two of them - she has a wild crush on him.)


yes, it was easy to smile at Miko's ultra-involved, passionate-for-ballet mother - but afterward I thought, there but for the grace of god...don't we all get a bit frantic, sometimes, in our hopes for our kids?


Thanks to those who posted links about what happens after the movie finished. Whether or not the First Position participants pursue dance as a career, I felt they'd do fine in whatever they chose to do.


It was disheartening for the film to note that even the competition winners - the best of the best - were entering the job market at a difficult time, as companies were laying off performers and cutting back overall.

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Arizona Native

Just noting that Aran Bell had rather recently moved to Italy, at the time of the film. He and his sister were previously training at CPYB, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His first trip to YAGP and the New York finals happened while he was still there. I believe he was coached at that time by Lazlo Berlo. I found it a bit peculiar that the film ignored his sister, although listing her in the credits. She was standing right there, some of the time. I also thought it was a bit strange that there was no mention that the bulk of his training had been elsewhere, with the move to Italy within that year.

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Like many of the posters, I found that I had mixed emotions about the film. My dd found it inspiring, and enjoyed that she recognized some of the dancers in the film from auditions and/or summer intensives. As a parent, I found some of it disturbing. I'm glad they were honest about the cost and the amount of parental support it takes to advance to that level, although "support" is understating it for Miko's Tiger Mom. Honestly, why does a girl who can already overextend her splits need a "Stretching Coach"? And Michaela's injury is a perfect example of the dilemma faced by dancers, parents and teachers when a student is injured. Do you ultimately leave it up to the dancer to know their own body and how much pain they can handle, or as the adult, do you make the decision for them?


DD's teacher asked us this year if dd was interested in training for YAGP, and while I did enjoy the film, after seeing it, my answer is NO.

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I was less than specific in my last post on this, mainly because I don't really want to publicly discuss specific children and their families, but I have to say that the whole injury thing was/is my biggest cause for concern, especially as it sends messages to other young dancers who feel they have to follow in these kids' paths. One poster mentioned that perhaps the documentary might have presented the situation in a specific way to possible increase the dramatic tension? But taking it on its face value (which is the only option we are given), I was disturbed that a 14 year old was seemingly allowed to decide for herself whether to take a medical risk that could have immediately ended her dreams of a dance career. If this were an adult facing a make or break career decision, that would be one discussion. But I find it ludicrous that so much risk was undertaken for just a competition, and for an opportunity that more than likely would still have existed (or even attained via an alternative path) one year later. Perhaps the seriousness of the injury was exaggerated or improperly expressed. However, that was not the impression I walked out of the movie theatre with, and so I'm sure others came away with that idea also.


And yes, I did notice what seemed to me some fairly extreme stretching going on (but perhaps I just don't move in the right circles?) - almost as if the ultimate goal in the ballet world is to evolve humankind towards the 360 degree extension. Some of the kids seemed like they only had another 100 degrees to go! But again, perhaps that is the new normal now.

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The 270 degree ballet extension is quite disturbing and highly unattractive, in my opinion. :yucky: Completely distorts the line. I've not seen any kids at our ballet studio doing this in the hallways, but, then again, I don't know what goes on in the dressing rooms and wouldn't be caught dead in there by my DD, unless I'm bringing food or extra leo/tights.

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...it does make you question how accurate documentaries really are. Guess you must take all things with a grain of salt.


It's also helpful to remember that in order to "sell" sometimes, the facts aren't allowed to interfere with a good story. Sadly, the one indisputable fact is viennakat's observation:

It was disheartening for the film to note that even the competition winners - the best of the best - were entering the job market at a difficult time, as companies were laying off performers and cutting back overall.


It's also helpful to understand that while the winners might have been the "best of the best" at a particular competition, they may also be the very dancers who have trained exceptionally hard for the competition but the training may have taken away from precious training time. Directors are pretty good at discerning a dancer who can do well trained variations but lack the training, stamina and ability to quickly pick up combinations. This could possibly mean that while some competition winners have the training, stamina and ability to quickly absorb choreography as well as the ability to perform well-rehearsed variations; some of the "winners" lack the skills sought by directors of ballet companies. (Sorry for the soapbox) but.... only those with the best training, physical ability/attributes and ability to quickly understand and perform choreography as well as being at the right place at the right time will be able to dance professionally. And among those with the right stuff, there are still more dancers than jobs :wallbash: Simply winning a competition does not a professional dancer make!

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