My favorite dance movie: Jasmine Pia Dames
From Billy Elliot to Black Swan, dance has provided an intense backdrop to some of the big screen’s most emotional stories. Dancers, in turn, are inspired by films which revolve on their chosen calling. In this series, the artists of Ballet Manila share their thoughts on the dance movies that made an impact on them, that they relate to and which they have grown to love.
Every ballet dancer knows what “first position” means. After all, it’s in their vocabulary, referring to one of five basic placements of the feet and arms in classical ballet.
For Ballet Manila soloist Jasmine Pia Dames, the term even has more resonance as it serves as the title of her favorite dance film.
Released in 2011, First Position is an American documentary that Pia heard about from a friend. The documentary zeroes in on six young dancers as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City, an annual competition where winners get a place at a choice ballet company or school.
Pia herself has participated in and garnered medals from various ballet competitions, so she was instantly curious about the film. Since it wasn’t shown in local cinemas, she had to content herself with a copy on USB that she watched on her laptop at home.
Even just on the small screen, Pia fell in love with First Position and the dancers it followed through their journey -- Michaela DePrince, Aran Bell, Miko Fogarty, Jules Fogarty, Joan Sebastian Zamora and Rebecca Houseknecht. It probably helped that the director, Bess Kargman, had studied ballet herself so she managed to put together a sensitive chronicle of the dancers’ lives.
“Masasabi ko lang po na nakaka-relate ako sa kanila kasi ballet dancer din ako and naka-experience na rin ng mga competitions. So alam ko kung anu’ng feeling ng stress nila, mga injuries, kasi nagkaroon rin ako nu’n. ‘Yung manalo at matalo. (What I can say is that I totally relate to them because I’m also a ballet dancer and have experienced being in competitions. I know how it feels to be stressed, to have injuries… because I’ve also had those. Even winning and losing).”
Pia says she enjoys the scenes that show what each dancer’s life is like when they’re not dancing. “Kasi mas nakilala ko sila hindi lang bilang magaling sumayaw kundi normal na tao rin pala sila kagaya namin (Because I got to know them not just as good dancers but as normal people just like us).”
If anyone is curious to know what a ballet dancer’s life entails, Pia says this is the perfect film that can answer their questions.
Asked for a favorite line that really struck her, Pia quotes Joan Sebastian Zamora: “‘Everyone is watching you and you feel nervous but when you go onstage you feel this exciting thing… then you just dance.’”
It’s applicable to all ballet dancers. Pia affirms, “We should enjoy every moment on stage.”