Screened as part of NZIFF 2012

First Position 2011

Directed by Bess Kargman

Six gifted young ballet students from disparate backgrounds prepare for the career-making Youth America Grand Prix in this intimate picture of the highly competitive world of dance. “Touching, enormously satisfying.” — Variety

USA In English, French, Hebrew and Spanish with English subtitles
94 minutes



Bess Kargman


Nick Higgins


Kate Amend
Bess Kargman


Chris Hajian


Miko Fogarty
Jules Fogarty
Joan Sebastian Zamora
Aran Bell
Michaela DePrince
Rebecca Houseknecht


Toronto, Vancouver 2011

“Never putting a foot wrong, the touching, enormously satisfying First Position follows six gifted ballet students from disparate social, regional, economic and ethnic backgrounds as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious competition at which the world’s top dance companies and schools prospect for new talent… The film [facilitated by the competition organisers] combines the built-in drama, tension and suspense of documentaries such as Spellbound, with exciting, beautifully lensed variations performed by the virtuosos of the future… 

Although all six of [director Bess] Kargman’s subjects have sacrificed a so-called ‘normal’ childhood for their art, and share tenacity, dedication and maturity beyond their years, their backstories differ vastly. The picture intelligently delves into their home lives, spending time with them and their families… 

As the articulate youngsters evince personality, poise and passion as well as physical grace and a necessary resilience, their parents and instructors provide another perspective on the true costs for them to follow their dreams (and in their varied attitudes toward the success of their offspring, the adults also provide much of the film’s humor). Kargman, once a young dancer herself, demonstrates ample knowledge of and passion for ballet life.” — Alissa Simon, Variety 

“There’s plenty of physical and emotional pain as well as joy on screen in this highly watchable ballet documentary… The subjects aren’t afraid of sacrifice, which makes the stakes of the final competition heart-poundingly high.” — Alison Willmore, AV Club