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First Position (2011)



Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 70
Fresh: 65 | Rotten: 5

An upbeat and visually dramatic documentary of children's ballet, First Position displays the potential of the human spirit when fostered at a young age.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 28
Fresh: 26 | Rotten: 2

An upbeat and visually dramatic documentary of children's ballet, First Position displays the potential of the human spirit when fostered at a young age.



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Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 10,790

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Movie Info

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

Oct 30, 2012


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All Critics (70) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (65) | Rotten (5)

Undeniably effective as drama, as we ponder the varying degrees of ambition and talent driving these young people to push their bodies beyond the limit in the hope of grasping a future in the spotlight.

April 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It does a great job developing its characters through its visuals - these are superphysical kids - and honing in on family dynamics.

July 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If you have a yearning to feel awkward, inadequate and lazy, watching the whirling teenage (and preteen) talents in director Bess Kargman's First Position will do the trick.

July 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When it's over, you won't remember so much about who won and who lost. Instead, what remains is the expression on a young dancer's face, reflected in a mirror: showing the joy of being in love with what you do.

May 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For someone (like me) who has never been to a ballet, the talent of these teens and tweens is a revelation.

May 18, 2012 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A number of the performances are plain stunning - Aran and Joan, in particular, seem born to move - and in many ways watching the movie is like watching a sporting event; there are winners and losers and favorites to cheer on.

May 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The joy of watching lies in the purity of the dancer's passion.

April 25, 2013 Full Review Source:

A superior example of the genre, it concentrates on six young dancers from around the world ...

April 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Like the engaging hit documentary Spellbound, this dance competition film gets under the skin and holds us in its grip like a well-crafted thriller.

April 12, 2013 Full Review Source:

Anyone with an interest in dance should enjoy this documentary ...

April 12, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Settles for heartwarming "follow your dreams" platitudes rather than following the cold realities of being a dancer.

April 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

It's humane, involving and inspirational.

April 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

A blandly feelgood documentary about aspiring young ballet dancers.

April 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

A griping documentary following several ballet hopefuls as they prepare for an international competition.

April 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Impressively directed and superbly edited, this is an emotionally engaging documentary with likeable subjects, stunning dance sequences and a suspenseful climax.

April 11, 2013 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

If you thought Black Swan made ballet look grim, this festival-fave documentary offers an earthier but no less griping portrait of the profession's crippling realities.

April 9, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

A touching look at ballet's battle-hardened youngsters.

April 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

If this film doesn't put a smile on your face, you are too hard to please.

April 7, 2013 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

Hopes are shared and dreams expressed during this uplifting journey in which we become involved in each of the dancers' lives. As a consequence, we have a stake in what happens and are often moved as a result of the drama and tension

April 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Debut director Bess Kargman establishes herself as a skilled documentarian, drawing out humour and tension from the contestants' experiences without manipulating their stories for melodramatic effect.

January 29, 2013 Full Review Source: The List
The List

First time director Bess Kargman has done a great job with this film in letting the personalities of these dancers and their families shine through.

January 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

It's enjoyable watching the motivated youngsters pirouetting their way to success.

November 27, 2012 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

An arresting documentary about the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be able to spin around like a whirling dervish on the tip of your toes without getting sickeningly dizzy.

August 24, 2012 Full Review Source: NECN

Audience Reviews for First Position

Even though it's predictable, First Position is an insightful film into the lives of aspiring ballet dancers. Upbeat, funny, involving, and precise, First Position is a window into the competitive world of the world class ballet. Getting to know all the dancers is a lot of fun and we go through their journey with them, we understand their pain, their trials and tribulations, and in the end, we can't help but clap and cheer for them. A great time at the theatre, or a great window about getting into the professional world of ballet dancing.
January 10, 2013
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

Six kids (9-19) whose lives are completely devoted to dance compete in a New York City contest with the best dancers from across the globe, with scholarships and professional careers depending on one performance. Rah-rah inspirational stuff aimed at dance moms; it only shows its subjects from their most forgiving angles. It might have had more impact if it focused entirely on the most interesting contestant (an adopted war orphan from Sierra Leone).
December 13, 2012
Greg S

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • First Position - Ballett ist ihr Leben (DE)
  • Le Concours de danse (FR)
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