Md. ballerina featured in documentary 'First Position'

At a recent screening of the ballet competion documentary "First Position," the audience gasped audibly when, about a third of the way through the movie, Rebecca Houseknecht's hometown — Odenton, Maryland — flashed across the screen.

The film chronicles the real-life stories of six aspiring dancers from around the world aged 11 to 17 who in 2009 competed in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix, the world's largest student ballet scholarship competition.

The film tells the dramatic life stories of a desperately poor Columbian teen who hopes to use dance to raise the quality of life for his entire family, and of a 14-year-old orphan who chose a life in ballet as an antidote to the murders she witnessed in her native Sierra Leone.

And, included among those talented, driven youths is Houseknecht, then 17, who graduated from Arundel High School, and developed her formidable technique while studying with the Maryland Youth Ballet. (The school's principal, Michelle Lees, also appears in the film.)

The film — spoiler alert — concludes with the serene-looking blond teen winning a coveted job with the Washington Ballet. But the film is called "First Position" for a reason; it tells only the beginning part of the story. Earlier today, Houseknecth filled us in on her post-movie life:

Have you seen "First Position"? What did you think?

I've seen the movie twice, and I liked it a lot. I think that [director] Bess Kargman portrays me really well.

Are you still performing with the Washington Ballet?

No, after the first year I resigned and enrolled in Towson University, where I'm studying speech pathology.

Why did you quit?

I just decided that I loved dance too much for it to be my job. I'm really glad I had the experience, but dancing professionally wasn't for me.

Is dance still a part of your life?

I'm on Towson's competitive dance team. We perform jazz, pom and hip-hop. Two months ago, in Daytona, we won our 14th consecutive national title. So, yeah, I'm still dancing.

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