Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    May 4, 2012
    I've become weary of documentaries about winning prizes, but this one is special because the kids are.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    May 18, 2012
    Among recent documentaries, First Position soars to the head of the class.
  3. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    May 2, 2012
    Fortunately, first-time filmmaker Bess Kargman has selected a diverse array of competitors from different backgrounds who have significant talent in common.
  4. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    May 4, 2012
    Documentaries don't have to be technically great to be irresistible, and Bess Kargman's First Position, which follows six young ballet dancers as they prepare for an elite competition, is a case in point.
  5. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    May 3, 2012
    These performers are so young, so serious, so full of dreams and so hard on themselves that it is difficult not to be moved by their striving.
  6. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    May 3, 2012
    First-time director Kargman triumphs by picking characters who largely defy expectations.
  7. Reviewed by: Alissa Simon
    Apr 28, 2012
    The picture combines the built-in drama, tension and suspense of documentaries such as "Spellbound" with exciting, beautifully lensed variations performed by the virtuosos of the future.
  8. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    Jul 23, 2012
    First Position is a simple, but effective portrait of ambition and determination in an art form where the stakes are high and the rewards are few.
  9. Reviewed by: Amy Hitt
    May 11, 2012
    Forget that "reality" show about young dancers on the Lifetime channel. First Position, a debut documentary from Bess Kargman, is the real thing.
  10. Reviewed by: Allan Ulrich
    May 10, 2012
    Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of First Position is the relationship between aspirant and teacher.
  11. Reviewed by: Ellen Dunkel
    May 10, 2012
    First Position shows the dancers' emotions, but it is weaker in building the suspense of the competition.
  12. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    May 10, 2012
    Because its subjects are so driven and so talented, First Position, which is about ballet, is more gripping than the norm.
  13. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    May 4, 2012
    The movie still seems fresh in the way it respects both the art in ballet and the discipline it demands - even in childhood.
  14. Reviewed by: John Semley
    May 4, 2012
    The documentary twists out its six narrative threads with measured compassion and even-handedness.
  15. 70
    Kargman is light on her feet, and she has chosen to follow a fascinating group of kids preparing for the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix.
  16. Reviewed by: Frank Scheck
    May 5, 2012
    First Position overcomes its predictable elements thanks to the inherent visual drama of watching children strain their bodies to the limit in obsessive pursuit of their goals.
  17. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    May 3, 2012
    An appealing, largely upbeat documentary about young ballet dancers duking it out.
  18. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    May 23, 2012
    It's a wealth of material at odds with a scant running time and shallow focus.
  19. Reviewed by: Linda Holmes
    May 8, 2012
    It's a simple and lovely movie, and particularly for people who haven't seen "Spellbound," it's a great introduction to the intriguing mix of parents - neurotic, loving, pressuring, calming - who raise great kids who do great things.
  20. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    May 3, 2012
    Their devotion to their art is admirable, and the film gets under the skin, if never really in our blood.
  21. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    May 1, 2012
    The documentary feels preprogrammed when it could have been a real-life Black Swan.
  22. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    May 1, 2012
    The result is a film that eschews in-depth insight in favor of easily digestible who's-going-to-win suspense, a tack that's aided by Kargman's rather poignant (and visually graceful) evocation of pre-performance anxiety but ultimately leaves the material feeling deflated once the winners emerge.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 1 out of 4
  1. Aug 18, 2013
    This is a very well done documentary about young aspiring ballet artists competing in a world class competition. It's fascinating and at least somewhat dramatic, and watching all this kids dance for their passion is really a treat. Full Review »
  2. Jan 26, 2013
    It seemed like a long promotional pitch for: "American Idol for Ballet Dancers". I was ready to be a fan of this documentary and a good story, but the potentially good stories were mashed together. I was disappointed they didn't use the ebb and flow of ballet to tell the story. Great kids, good music, hard work, sacrifice is clear. But, I wasn't invested in the characters...In summary, with so many other great movies to watch, this one is on the end of your list unless you love ballet. Full Review »
  3. Jun 2, 2012
    A lovely, touching movie, albeit a bit heavy on the heart-tugging. I loved the dancing, the cinematography, and the personal stories (and the personalities of the dancers and their families); but most of all I loved the fact that there was no Nigel, Mary, Little C, Trice, or Mia to ruin it. Full Review »