Documentaries about competitions have fallen into a routine, formulaic model. They start off with an “introduction” of all the principles, then you see a few scenes during the “preparation” phase. Finally there’s the actual competition.
First Position follows this formula to a T. The filming and editing are well done and you do grow attached to the characters. So, from that standpoint, the film works. Certainly the audience who saw the film had lots of positive reactions to it.
For me, I thought it was a good film, but I’m getting pretty tired of the formula. Time for something new. I was really disappointed that the filmmaker did not choose to show complete dance sequences. Just as I was getting into a particular dance, there’d be a sharp cut to someone’s expression or a close up of the dancer’s feet. It really took me out of the movie.
Afterwards, I ran into two young dancers and their parents, all of whom were enthusiastic about the film.
Gina found out about the film just this afternoon. “We know some of the people who are in it,” she says excitedly: “Gabriel Maxwell, Orlando Melina, Olivia Munoz. Two of them are teachers, the other is a student. They competed and Gabriel, from Switzerland, got a scholarship.”
“It was awesome,” said Zoe Grecho. (Zoe’s mom leans over to me and whispers, “They live for dancing!”)
Gina tells me more, “I cried at some points. Overall I was glad my mom isn’t that strict-that hard on me.”
Zoe was focused on the dancing, “Some of the variations gave me chills. It made me very happy that they won-what they got.”
“Why dance?,” I inquire.
“It’s an amazing sport. You get to move and express yourself. You don’t have to speak. You get to show yourself in your body,” says Zoe.
Gina says, “My mother’s side of the family are dancers, but I CHOOSE to do dance–as well as music and acting. It’s mainly to get a chance to perform. I love performing for people and making people feel what I’m feeling.” I ask, ”What are you feeling?” “It depends on what I’m performing. I don’t really have a favorite. I just love it.”
“Any last thoughts?” Zoe–”You should really see this, it’s amazing, It shows you how hard dancers work and what we do.”
Gina concludes, “It’s amazing and it really represents the community of dancers.”
I wish I had thought to ask them how old they are. For young ladies, they demonstrated a great deal of insight and maturity.