First Position ***

Sunday April 22 at 3pm
: Bess Kargman

First Position offers an intimate insight into the lives of six painfully dedicated young ballet hopefuls.

The details of their backgrounds give the viewer a genuine interest in their success. We follow them through the ups and downs of their journey to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix — a prestigious competition where the world’s top dance companies and schools prospect for new talent.

There are some seriously tense moments, like when the dancers are waiting to hear whether they have been shortlisted in the contest. Who knows what it must feel like for a nine-year-old whose every chance to pursue their passion hangs on the judge’s decision.

It’s like X-Factor with venom.

The real jewel in this documentary is 14-year-old Michaela who was brought up in war-torn Sierra Leone. Her life epitomises triumph over adversity — her parents were killed in the war and she witnessed her teacher’s arms and legs being cut off.

Tears are never far from the girl’s eyes and you marvel at her sheer determination and drive to achieve a success.

Many more odds are stacked against her not least the colour of her skin — black, mainstream ballet dancers are a rarity.

Another dancer who has beaten the odds is Joan, 16, who comes from a poor family in Columbia and has scraped together the money for the extortionate costs. He has left home in the hope of a better chance of success in the city and there are many touching moments of him on the phone to his loving parents who offer all their support.

Little Aran, 11, is another one to watch — his determination is beyond that of even the most ambitious of adults’. There is a great scene where he shows us some of his stretching and strength building instruments which look like something out of a torture chamber.

First Position breaks away from the stereotypes surrounding ballet — the rich and well-to-do are included but are not the sole focus of the film. Rather, it embraces students from disparate social and racial backgrounds — a refreshing format for the genre.

Bermuda Docs film festival runs from Friday, April 20 to Sunday, April 22 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Tickets are available from or by calling 232-2255.