Ballet At The Movies: "First Position"
Bess Kargman, Award-winning Director Chats with The Dance Enthusiast
I'll Have some Popcorn with my Pointe Shoes Please...
©Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast
For Times and Theater Locations for First Position in New York City click here
While in the process of creating her first film, First Position, Bess Kargman encountered discouraging words from well- intentioned and more experienced documentarians. They reminded her of the reality. “Dance is a niche market, and not commercial. You will go straight to DVD. You should start out working as an assistant on someone else’s project before being the director, producer, and editor of your own film. Your first film is impossible to finish.”
Kargman, a Columbia University Journalism School graduate whose most recent work profile consisted of news pieces for the likes NPR, The Washington Post, and NBC Olympics, knew everything they said was true. She didn’t begrudge the advice, but thankfully something inside her believed, “maybe that’s not always case. Perhaps what I lack in documentary experience can be made up by my understanding of the ballet world,” and after all, Kargman insists, “storytelling is storytelling” whether it is reporting a news event or creating a film.
First Position:The Official Trailer
|Rebecca Houseknecht in First Position directed by Bess Kargman- Photo by Bess Kargman|
For this novice director, who had studied ballet passionately since the age of four at the Boston Ballet School, a dance documentary was a natural choice. “I wished a film like this existed when I was growing up, I was waiting for someone to make it,” Kargman explained in a recent phone interview.“I always wondered what dancers did when they went home after practice. What was it like beyond the classroom? What were their parents and friends like? Who were the human beings behind the art?”
Having an intimate history with ballet, she wanted to do her part to burst some of the common stereotypes that exist around the form; for example, that ballet is for rich white kids, that boys in ballet are gay, that young women in ballet are always anorexic, and that stage mothers are consistently obnoxious. “The world behind the scenes of ballet is much more complex and interesting than what meets the eye,” Kargman explains, and she reveals this through the stories of her young dancers, girls and boys, young men and women from different nations, and varied backgrounds who are bound together by a dance form and the desire to excel in it.
|Michaela DePrince in First Position directed by Bess Kargman- Photo by Margaret Teich|
|Gaya Bommer and Aran Bell in First Position directed by Bess Kargman- Photo by Bess Kargman|
|A behind the scenes look at First Position directed by Bess Kargman- Photo by Bess Kargman|
Kargman knows that New York City dance enthusiasts will be interested in her film, and she hopes they like it, but what makes her proudest is the fact that First Position is playing in towns across the country that aren’t known for an association with ballet, “I made the film for the people who get dragged to the theater. Those are the people I want to win over.”