Fix: Dance Academy Withdrawal
Platforms: AMC+, DirecTV
Follow dancers training for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions. The stakes are high: their performances will determine the success or failure of the young boys’ dreams.
If you’re like me, you’ve been suffering from a raging case of TEASS (The End of an Awesome Show Syndrome) ever since the finale of Dance Academy Season Two. And no, I AM NOT CRYING. I just have something in my eye. ANYWAY. I’ve been suffering, y’all, and I could find no relief until my friend Katie recommend this documentary on Netflix. It’s about young dancers (boys AND girls, bee tee dubs, Netflix is WACK) who are competing in the
Pan-Pacific Youth America Grand Prix. This is like the BIG TIME for adolescent ballet, and if you place in the competition, you’re guaranteed a scholarship and/or a job with a prestigious ballet company. The contest is open to ages 9-19, and there are over 5,000 entrants. And by the time you get to the finals (IF you get to the finals), there are only 300 candidates, with only 30 ballet institutions offering positions. It’s intense, it’s terrifying, and it’s absolutely riveting.
Since this is a documentary, all of the players are complete unknowns. (Unless you’re a super ballet swimfan. Then maybe you know… the judges?) But even though you’ve never seen these kids before, I guarantee you will fall in love IMMEDIATELY with… at least 75% of them.
First up is Aran, who is eleven. Aran’s dad is in the Navy, and he seems just like a regular kid until you see him dancing and it’s LIKE WHOA. My favorite thing about Aran is his melodramatic French ballet teacher. My second favorite thing is his (soon to be complicated) relationship with Gaya, a girl from Israel who may or may not be completely insane. Like, watch out for this girl. And I mean that both in a “watch out, she’ll be famous because she’s an amazing dancer” way and also a “WATCH OUT BECAUSE SHE WILL CUT YOU” way.
Next up, we have 14-year-old Michaela, who was born in Sierra Leone. Her parents were killed, and she saw her teacher get dismembered in front of her. And in spite of all of this, SHE HAS LEARNED THE JOY OF DANCE. She’s strong and determined and her old white adoptive parents are just along for the ride. Out of all of the candidates, I was rooting for her the hardest. (Partially because she reminds me of Abigail from Dance Academy.)
Then there’s Rebecca, who is 17 and super pretty. She’s nice enough, but the filmmakers make sure to point out that she is VERY POPULAR and USED TO BE A CHEERLEADER and her room is covered with PRINCESS logos. So I guess she’s supposed to be the Regina George of the documentary, but she’s actually just a sheltered, straight up vanilla girl whom you’ve probably met via many, many YA novels.
I feel dirty saying this about a 16-year-old (but in the spirit of journalistic integrity, I must be honest): the “hottie” of First Position is Joan Sebastian. He’s from Colombia, and his family sent him to NYC to study ballet in the hopes that he will have a better life. He’s a delightful mix of Sam’s sweetness and Christian’s fooooine physique, and I MEAN JUST LOOK AT THIS GUY.
IS THIS REAL LIFE? YES IT IS.
Finally, there’s Miko, age 13, and her brother JJ, age 10. Their mom is just waiting for the ballet spin-off of Toddlers and Tiaras.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High (Ballet Lovers Only)
Like any good documentary, this film is full of dramatic highs and lows, and those are always better experienced with a group. There are moments when you want bury your sad face into a friend’s shoulder as well as moments when you want to scream, leap up and then perform some pirouettes with your fellow amateurs. First Position is a definite crowd pleaser, but I recommend limiting your couch to people who can’t hear “Canned Heat” without automatically thinking of Center Stage.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: In the words of Journey, “Any Way You Want It.”
I could’ve watched this movie stone cold sober and still enjoyed the shizz out of it. Buuuut… you and I both know that I probably had a few glasses of wine. And I HAD THE BEST TIME. It’s not a tricky film to follow, so if you want to get en pointe with a few adult beverages, you’ll definitely get REALLY into the story. (And you might need a drink after seeing all of those horrendous dancers’ feet. SO GROSS.)
Use of Your Netflix Subscription > Paying For Ballet Lessons For 10 Years
After watching this film, I felt RELIEVED that I quit ballet at age 6, because this dance shizz is PRICEY, Y’ALL. Not to mention potentially injury-inducing and soul-crushing. But that’s exactly why this documentary is so wonderful– you can live vicariously through these determined, amazing kids who really love ballet and JUST CAN’T HELP THEMSELVES. You will cheer for them, you might cry for them, and most certainly, you’ll vow to never let your children take ballet. But when the credits roll, you’ll feel like leaping across your living room, because, just as Flashdance taught us, these kids took their passion, and they made it happen.