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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Documentaries: First Position

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Just came back from watching the movie. (Confession: I was most interested in the costumes . . . . .) Much of it irritated me; some of it touched me; and parts of it still struck me as hyperbole. Once again, . . . .yes, professional company tutus can cost upwards from $2500. But there is absolutely NO reason that a student's should, especially for a competition. Seriously, there are some wonderful tutu builders out there that do not charge $2500. Now, IF they can land a client willing to pay $2500, they are certainly capable of producing a beautiful costume worth every penny of that.


Sorry, but Miko's mom is a nutcase. . . . And possibly her teacher. And a flexibility coach . . . . . sshheeesh.


I felt for Joan Sebastian. He seemed so very, very homesick. I hope he is happy pursuing ballet. Hopefully, he won't end up where like Sergie Polunin. . . . .


Aran and Gaya were adorable! My DD talks a lot of GAGA technique from Israel. Any chance that was what was influencing Gaya's contemporary pieces?


Michaela is a beautiful dancer. I do hope she learns to respect her injuries and not ignore them. A potential for snapping an Achilles is no small matter. Career-ending injuries are real; they aren't just villians in a fairy tale to scare young dancers.

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DD knew Joan at RBS. She graduated last year so can't speak to recent happiness but she was friends with him last year (his first and her last at RBS) and he seemed to have adjusted well. He was liked by his peers. I do think that many of the International Upper School students suffer a bit of homesickness.I know our dd had a bit of it when she went over. It's a lot of change for a young person to absorb. The school recognizes this and makes allowances for it. In fact, they were more worried than we were as our dd never let us know how homesick she had been until her final year. She was afraid we would bring her home!

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Sorry, but Miko's mom is a nutcase. . . . And possibly her teacher. And a flexibility coach . . . . . sshheeesh.



I'm so glad someone else said it! My husband and I couldn't stand her. I grew up with a mom similar to Miko's and well.....I'm STILL suffering the effects of it at 28 years old. I'm slowly getting better, but it's taken A LOT and pretty much cutting her out of my life.

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Not to pile on Miko's mom, but I thought what was most telling about her was not her dealings with Miko, but how she handled her son's decision to stop ballet.

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I agree with all posts. I competed against Miko and saw her entire training "team" in action. I actually felt really badly for her. People were stretching her, doing her makeup, and yelling at her all at the same time. (and she was basically winning the competition at the time). There was probably not much editing of the film as what I saw in person was basically the same. Although seeing Miko laughing on the film was something I definitely did not see in person.


I really liked the stories of Aran, Gaya, and Joan. They seem to really have supportive people in the lives which will help their careers.

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We watched this On Demand and I am glad to hear from others my opinion of Miko's (tiger) mother and the display of hyper mobility as a "must" for ballet dancers. Unfortunately, dd now thinks that she has to do a competition to be "seen"... but that is not a path I am willing to support financially or emotionally. We are familiar with many who have done this competition and not all get "fabulous prizes" or even noticed even though they are excellent dancers. If anything I did learn from this is that I will stick with the slow cook method.

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Not to pile on Miko's mom, but I thought what was most telling about her was not her dealings with Miko, but how she handled her son's decision to stop ballet.


Yeah, that was horrible. CRYING because your child is saying "you know? this isn't for me". Come on!


What we also found sad was her attitude towards food.

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Arizona Native

There are plenty of people on this list who have cried because their child quit dancing.


Despite her strong feelings, she did allow him to quit. Also, the parents of most, if not all, competitors at that level are involved to a level that many would call extreme. Knowing more than was revealed on the film, I will say that the differences were minimized in order to create contrast and "charecters." This was not a true documentary, which would have made an effort to show a more complete picture; rather, it was highly selective, in its efforts to create a more popular show. A more interesting topic is not Miko's mother, in particular, but why she thinks her daughter needs to be contortionistically flexible and stick thin. Are these things true for competitions, more than for actual ballet, for instance. If it is true, at least to some extent, why is that, since the judges are "legit" ballet people?

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I'm a bit confused by your post, Arizona Native. :shrug: We have covered the issue of whether dancers need to be "contortionistically flexible and stick thin", and I think we've sucessfully dispelled that myth. However that particular discussion as a topic can be raised again, but not on this topic since this topic is about First Position.


While I have no doubt "First Position" was an exercise in dramaturgy more than a "Documentary", the simple truth is that the YAGP mania is totally unnecessary for a professional ballet career.

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Having just watched the movie last night, I recall one of the judges being interviewed making a big point to say that they look at these dancers for their potential. The scholarships are given with the intent to offer training. But the judges have no knowledge of how well the dancer may fare or how quickly they'll develop in a regular and intense classroom environment until they see them in their school for many months. The judges may be entertained and amused by the tricks they see on stage and of course they know that flexibility is helpful as part of an ideal facility. They are pleased to see someone can do tricks, perhaps. Some might like to see them more than others. But they know the tricks have nothing to do with what they are looking for in the long run for students and they will not be favored in the classroom. As for extreme flexibility, the school who has offered the scholarship now becomes responsible for reigning it in, so it can be more controlled by the dancer. There are many physical problems dance students with this kind of flexibility face and dd has seen this first hand with friends. I also agree completely with Clara76 that this film was selectively edited so as to profile each story with the director's own view on what she thought the public would enjoy. A true documentary would have brought out the whole story, including how actually unnecessary competition is to career prospects for ballet dancers and how most who do them find the process itself as what is beneficial.

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We have covered the issue of whether dancers need to be "contortionistically flexible and stick thin", and I think we've sucessfully dispelled that myth.


I think the point that AZ Native was trying to make is that the film does nothing to dispel this myth, and certainly YAGP does nothing to dispel this myth.

There is definitely a mixed message in the ballet world. I can't tell you how many times I've heard or read that kids are being pushed onto pointe too quickly, and that there are very few occasions where girls should be on pointe much before the age of 12, yet there is YAGP, one of the premier ballet competitions in the world, having kids in the 9-11 age range doing classical variations, and for the girls this means on pointe. If a dancer is performing a classical variation at a competitive level at age 9 or 10, then at what age did she go on pointe in order to achieve this level of ability? By rewarding this, YAGP is contributing to the notion that we've got to get our girls on pointe early in order to achieve competitive success, if not career success.

I will give the film and YAGP credit for recognizing Michaela, who is NOT stick thin, but her hyper-flexibility detracted from her dancing in my opinion. I did not find her leaps, which went beyond the horizontal to be attractive. But as long as people perceive that it is rewarded, they will continue to work for that.

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You are right, there are mixed messages. In the end, it's up to the parents to become informed and advocate for the welfare of their child. Michaela and my dd trained at the same school when both were younger. The school certainly pushed the notion that tricks were vital and that standing on pointe with one leg wrapped behind your ear was key to success. One other thing that the school cherished was standing on pointe with the forefront of the foot wayyyyy over. It took 3 years of solid training after dd left that school to convert that flexibility to strength and to teach the lovely lines that are truly the benchmark of good ballet. While the documentary and YAGP's website highlight the extremes, it's been our experience that those dancers with lovely lines and good clean technique as well as stage presence are the usually the ones who actually "win" the Senior Grand Prix in New York.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello everyone! I am despretly trying to locate the movie "First Position". I do not have AT & T Unverse, which I know it is on. Charter on Demand is not carrying it yet. Does anyone else know how I can watch it. Thank you for all your help.

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It was well worth the 90 minutes and $6 each at a matinee. The film was about Youth, America (and its opportunities) and some extraordinary families - adopted, military, entrepreneur. Although they were competetive they all truly loved ballet. I told my DD that maybe she could make more if she trained to make tutus! They said good ones are $1500!

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