Opening Today: First Position #movie #review

Every now and then baby girl and I have our “Mommy-Daughter” days out, and on Monday night, we were invited to go see the documentary “First Position” in Bethesda.  Baby girl was so excited to see the film, that she could barely sit still.  She kept hopping from my lap to her own seat and back.

I started dancing at 3, and danced throughout my childhood, teen years, and eventually was a college cheerleader, dancer, and dance teacher.  To hear my current size and shape tell it – I am pretty far from those days.  My daughter has been taking ballet for the last 3 years, and LOVES to dance.  Once day, she was having a difficult time with a move that she learned in class, and forgetting that I was somebody’s momma, and my days as a flexible dancer were long gone, I stood beside her and walked her through the moves.  I went up on my toes, I spun, I balanced on one foot…Plié, Relevé.   Muscle memory is real!  My sons watched – jaws dropped – like they were watching a pink elephant prance around the room in a tutu… graceful… but still… kinda surreal. I STILL love to dance, but my current body loves to watch other people dance – so I really loved this movie!



Watching the children and teens dance in this movie was a special treat for baby girl. She is still young and impressionable, so I had to whisper reassuring things and positive affirmations in her ear when the subjects of dieting, body image, the “ideal” dancer size/proportions and overworking the body came up, and it seemed to go well.

(photo at left is Baby Girl getting ready for her first recital)

We were both mesmerized by the performances, the costumes, and the work ethic of the kids. I wish cameras were allowed so that I could have captured the look on her face when she found out that the feet that are so pretty in ballet shoes are bumpy, bruised, and blistered when you take the slippers off.  It was priceless!  If you have a daughter or son who says, they want to be a dancer when they grow up, this will be an eye opener for them – and you as a parent!  Could you imagine moving your home, and business (employees and all) to another city or state to be closer to your child’s dance teacher?  As a business owner and parent – I can’t see it – but once you see this movie, you will realize that dance is a commitment that families are taking as seriously (if not more so) as sports and education.

I am a documentary and dance lover, so this movie was fantastic for me.  I would recommend it to people with children who are dancers or are thinking about dance as a career.

Synopsis: Every year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix, where lifelong dreams are at stake. In the final round, with hundreds competing for only a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, practice and discipline are paramount, and nothing short of perfection is expected. Bess Kargman’s award-winning documentary, FIRST POSITION, follows six young dancers as they prepare for a chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence. A showcase of awe-inspiring talent, tenacity and passion, FIRST POSITION paints a thrilling and moving portrait of the most gifted young ballet stars of tomorrow.

First Position opens in Washington, DC today – May 11th.

Here are some stills from the movie.


The movie follows some amazing dancers, their teachers, and their families.  Meet the cast…



Miko Fogarty

Miko Fogarty was born in London, England in 1997 and trains with Viktor Kabaniaev in the Professional Program at the Westlake School for Performing Arts in San Francisco, USA. She currently lives in Orinda, California near San Francisco with her brother Jules, her mother Satoko, and her father Mat.  During the filming, she was training at the Diablo Apprentice Program.  From as long as she can remember, she has always aspired to become a professional ballerina. In the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, Miko trained at the Royal Ballet School’s International Summer Program in London and was selected to dance solos in the final performances and received the Commendation Award each year. In 2009 and 2011, Miko won the Gold Medal at the World Ballet Competition in Florida.  In 2010, she won the Bronze Medal at the New York Finals of the Youth America Grand Prix. In 2011, Miko was invited to perform on the “YAGP’s 2011 Ballet Grand Prix Tour” and danced with accomplished artists: Jose Manuel Carreno, Igor Kolb, Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, Mikhail Kaniskin, Oksana Skorik, Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk. Miko was featured in the ballet documentary “First Position”, which won multiple prizes at film festivals.  “First Position” will be in movie theaters internationally in the Spring of 2012. Since 2009 (age 12), she has been doing online school to give her more time to dedicate to ballet. This allows her to dance 4 to 5 hours a day and also travel for competitions and tours. Miko was listed as one of “The Most Influential People of 2011” in the Dance Spirit Magazine.

Jules Fogarty

Jules Fogarty was born in London, UK in March 1999.  His father is English and his mother Japanese.  When Jules was 5 months old, he moved to California and started ballet when he was 4 years old.  It was a lot of fun when he was a little kid as it was good to be with his friends, acting, and jumping around.

When Jules was 9, he did his first YAGP and won first place in the regional and the bronze medal in the New York finals. The following year he did YAGP again (as shown in First Position) but did not win. Some day he hopes to be an entrepreneur like his father.

Joan Sebastian Zamora

Strong and serious, Joan Sebastian, 16, has left his mountainside village near Cali, Colombia for a brighter future in America. His mother, who describes herself as a former frustrated ballerina, is his greatest source of encouragement. Every time he calls home he is reminded of the sacrifices his family has made on his behalf, and their high expectations of him to help support them in the future. Joan Sebastian’s dream is to dance for the Royal Ballet in London, England, where his inspiration, the Cuban star Carlos Acosta, dances. If he wins a Youth America Grand Prix scholarship to train at the Royal Ballet School, he is one step closer to achieving this dream.

Aran Bell

Aran Bell, who is eleven years old in the film, began his training at age four in Bremerton, Washington with Michiko Black and continued training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Originally from Washington, his family relocated to a US Navy base in Naples, Italy after his father, a military doctor, returned from a tour of duty in Kuwait. In 2009, Aran began studying with Denys Ganio in Rome, Italy. He has also attended the Royal Ballet School, and American Ballet Theatre summer programs. Aran was the winner of the Hope Award at the Youth America Grand Prix Finals in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, he was also the Grand Prix winner of the Milan International Ballet Competition. He was awarded the Junior Grand Prix at the 2011 YAGP Finals, and the gold medal at the Rieti (Italy) International ballet competition. Aran has performed in numerous galas in Italy, France, Germany, England, Austria, Poland, Romania, and several U.S. cities. Today, Aran is home schooled in order to spend 2 hours a day commuting to his dance school in Rome, where he trains for five hours a day. Aran’s hobbies include skateboarding, snowboarding, playing with action figures and collecting toy guns.

Michaela DePrince

A war orphan from Sierra Leone, Michaela DePrince was adopted by a large American family in New Jersey when she was four years old. At that time her only exposure to ballet was from a crushed and smudged magazine photo that she found clinging to the gates of the orphanage. Michaela begged her new American mother for dance lessons, and soon she was studying ballet, modern, tap dancing and jazz at Dalia Hay’s Dance Academy in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She also studied ballet for seven years at The Rock School for Dance Education, where she continued her interest in modern, jazz and tap dancing. While at The Rock School, Michaela won both the Hope Award and the Junior Grand Prix at the Philadelphia Regional Youth American Grand Prix. From age eleven to thirteen, Michaela studied ballet in Northern Vermont, from Vanina Wilson, a French dance trained in the Paris Opera Ballet, Alain Albertson Murphy, a former principal dancer in the San Francisco Ballet and Alex Nagiba, a former soloist of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. During that period of her childhood, Michaela also had the good fortune to study with two legends of the ballet world, Monsieur Daniel Seillier in Montreal and Mr. Arthur Mitchell at the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Summer Intensive. She first attended the American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive in New York City when she was thirteen. Michaela was named a National Training Scholar at the end of that summer. She was a participant in the 2010 International Ballet Competition in Jackson, but it was through the Youth American Grand Prix, where she was an annual finalist for five years, that Michaela was first awarded a scholarship to The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of the American Ballet Theatre. Last year she felt honored to be awarded The Beverly G. Smith Scholarship. This year Michaela is doubly honored to receive this scholarship again.

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I received free admission to First Position for myself and my family. The opinions expressed in this post are my own. For more information click on “About.”