First Position (2011)
This dance documentary follows six ballet dancers from six different countries, ages 9 to 19, as they prepare to compete in the Youth American Grand Prix in New York City. It's life as a never-ending performance competition, subject to how judges score your five minutes on stage, and with the pressure of scholarships to prestigious schools and contracts with dance companies on the line. For much of the movie the parents and coaches are even more interesting than the dancers. Who's ego is really on the line here? "Some people say I'm too involved in my kid's life," admitted one tiger mom,"but I never want to regret that I could have done more." She was devastated when her son stopped dancing. The work ethic of the kids and the sacrifices of the family are remarkable, and the question naturally arises whether they enjoy a normal childhood. The film clearly answers this question — no, they don't. But whereas some of these kids are pushed by their parents, a few of them were gifted to dance; they're doing what they were hard wired to do. Five thousand dancers enter the YAGP each year; the film ends with the six dancers in the final rounds. "First Position" has won several indie festival awards.