First Position

DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 34min

DIRECTED BY: Bess Kargman

Gal pal: Gaya Bommer Yemini and Aran Bell

Dancers Aran, Rebecca, Joan Sebastian, Miko, Jules and Michaela are all competing for Youth America Grand Prix recognition in Bess Kargman’s emotion-charged ballet documentary. They’re aged between 9 and 16, and each one is a marvel of grace under toe-crunching pressure.


Kargman, whose lifelong love of dance illuminates every second, threads their compelling narratives together in a backstage round-trip that lays hard truths on the line. The conditions couldn’t be more exacting: after years of intensive training, each of the 300 finalists, whittled down from thousands, has a five-minute baptism of fire onstage in front of reps from America’s leading ballet academies and companies. They’re competing for scholarships and contracts in a profession where work is notoriously hard to come by.


Dance is a ruthless paradox of heavenly beauty and gruelling physicality, and the toll it takes at this level — on bodies, finances and families — is punishing. Not that any of these driven souls is complaining. Those moments of floaty, spotlit beauty are worth every aching step.