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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
First Position's main message is about working hard to achieve your goal. And your passion for that goal matters, too; it should be your goal, not someone else's for you. Also, don't be too hard on yourself -- young people should be their own best motivators and supporters, with parents coming a close second.
Positive Role Models
The kids featured in this documentary are hardworking, dedicated, and single-minded in the pursuit of their dream. For the most part, their parents are well-meaning, too, though some moms and dads (and teachers, too) may place their own hopes and wishes onto their children.
Violence & Scariness
No violence, but the physical toll that ballet exacts on dancers is in full display at one point -- including bloody toes, cuts and scratches, brutal bruises, and actual injuries.
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Products & Purchases
One subject is shown with shopping bags from Victoria's Secret and the like. She's also shown shopping at Tiffany. Many dance companies are mentioned by name.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that First Position is a winning dance documentary that will have you on your feet cheering and clapping for its young subjects, all of whom are vying for prestigious scholarships and contracts after years of hard work, practice, and dedication (not to mention painful injuries). Not everyone gets to win the big prizes, but given how committed and giving all of the featured dancers are, they're definitely all winners. First Position will make you believe that hard work really does pay off, which is a great lesson for kids of all ages. While even younger kids will find much here to enjoy and inspire, the subjects' laser focus on their goals will be more relatable for tweens and up. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie makes us want to dance and it makes us think, and that's a good thing. A good documentary transports you someplace you might not be familiar with but are grateful to visit; a great documentary makes you care so much about its subjects that you can't fathom how you never knew about them before. First Position is always good and often great -- a portrait of dancers so driven that their youth or background matters not a whit. Filmmaker Bess Kargman approaches her subjects with empathy and a palpable respect for their work ethic. But she doesn't shy away from asking questions, either, whether by letting vexing moments like a young woman's late-breaking injury linger or by juxtaposing a little boy who's having fun dancing (but clearly isn't motivated to perfect the moves) and his doting mother, who, also clearly, won't see that he isn't likely to end up wanting to truly pursue ballet.
And, oh the dancing! Whether you're a ballet fan or not, it's impossible not to be impressed by the grace and athleticism of it all. Ballet here isn't genteel; it's tough on both mind and body and will push you to your limits. It's also astoundingly beautiful to watch. One minor gripe is how Kargman elects to view some dancing scenes at a remove or from the wings, dulling a dancer's effect a little. (Though only a little.) And the ending feels abrupt, given the careful wind-up and the time spent with all the characters (thankfully, though, we do find out how each of these interesting young dancers fared). But ultimately First Position will leave you questioning your own ability to commit fully to a passion.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.