It’s Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. New York City–especially Broadway Dance Center–is celebrating love loud and proud by walking in the Pride March again and hosting special Pride March fundraiser classes. Amidst all this joy, pride, and celebration, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come (and also how far we still have to go) in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights and respect.
The arts reflect life, and the dance world has often ignited social change (Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey are but two choreographic changemakers that come to mind). It’s not quite a surprise, then, to know that the dance community had a huge influence on making “gay” visible, accepted, and mainstream.
After a difficult double-header day of dancing at Broadway Dance Center, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a documentary about exceptionally talented young ballerinas. Thankfully, my friend convinced me to go with him to see the talk of the (dance) town, “First Position.” We trekked over to the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (65th between Broadway and Amsterdam) and paid just $8 for our tickets (unheard of at NYC movie theaters!). The atmosphere was chic – the theater was very tiny with padded bleacher seating for the 15 or so people in the audience.
But on with the show! “First Position” follows the journies of eight young ballet dancers as they prepare to compete in the most prestigious international ballet competition, the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP).
Aran Bell: (11) son of a US Navy doctor, lives in Italy
Gaya Bommer Yemini: (11) daughter of an Israeli choreographer
Michaela Deprince: (14) orphan from the horrors of war in Sierra Leone who was adopted by a family in New Jersey
Jules Jarvis (JJ) Fogarty: (10) California
Miko Fogarty: (12) girl from California who is home-schooled so can spend more time in ballet
Jules Jarvis (JJ) Fogarty: (10) Miko’s younger brother who follows in her footsteps but does not share the same passion for ballet as his sister
Rebecca Houseknecht: (17) glamorous former-cheerleader from Maryland
Joan Sebastian Zamora: (16) left his home and family in Colombia to study ballet in NYC
All of the dancers (ranging in ages 10-17) aspire to win awards, scholarships, and job contracts to companies such as the American Ballet Theater and the Royal Ballet in London. These young kids are brilliant dancers – and the film will give you the motivation to get back in ballet class!
“These performers are so young, so serious, so full of dreams and so hard on themselves that it is difficult not to be moved by their striving.” – Kenneth Turan (LA Times)
“First-time director Kargman triumphs by picking characters who largely defy expectations.” – Mary Pols (TIME)
“Forget that “reality” show about young dancers on the Lifetime channel. First Position, a debut documentary from Bess Kargman, is the real thing.” – Amy Hitt (Washington Post)