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Come on, I know it's not cool to admit to liking what is essentially a
cheesy teen flick. But go ahead, say it aloud - this is a fun movie!
Sappy, badly acted, full of exaggerated clichés and one-liner groaners,
Center Stage nevertheless has a kind of charm to it. No, it's not an
Oscar contender or a change-your-life kind of movie. This is pure
escapism, plain and simple. But - say it together with me now - there's
nothing wrong with that.
Amanda Schull plays Jody, a wannabe ballet dancer who gets accepted to the prestigious American Ballet Academy. The movie follows her life and that of her friends and fellow students, who fall into the predictable stereotypes. There's Eva (Zoe Saldana), the city kid with attitude. There's Maureen (Susan May Pratt), the teacher's pet. There's Erik (Shakiem Evans), the gay guy. There's Cooper (Ethan Stiefel), the bad-boy celebrity who's still in love with the director's wife ballerina. There's Charlie (Sascha Radetsky), the perfect good guy. One has the obnoxious stage mom. Another has the talent but not the drive. A third has the drive but not the talent. Etcetera. And the lives of the students take the typical high school romantic twists and turns, as the students compete for one of three spots in the company by the end of the year, and also in the various love triangles between the cast. There are few surprises here.
None of the cast is much of an actor - Schull is particularly uneven - and the plot has a sort of predictability to it that make eyes roll.
So why the 8/10? Well, because despite all this, Center Stage is a great amount of fun - mostly due to the dancing.
By casting real dancers in a lot of the roles, Center Stage lends an air of credibility to the lavishly filmed dance sequences, clearly done with love by such talents as world-leading dancers Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel (widely considered to be one of the best ballet dancers in the world) as well as relatively new talents such as Amanda Schull. Some of the actors have body doubles dancing for them, such as Zoe Saldana - who had some dance training but not at the level required by the film. But overall, the dance scenes are the best part of the movie, especially Cooper's ballet at the end.
Some movies are great because they change your life or make you think. Center Stage is great because it's like candy - full of saccharine sugar and empty calories, but eminently watchable over and over again. Sometimes movies don't have to be socially relevant or intellectually stimulating to be good. Sometimes, escapism is OK too.
Every now and then there's a new movie about dancers, or dancing, or one with a lot of dancing in it. From Astaire to Kelly to Hines, it's the poetry of motion. If you have any appreciation for the art form whatsoever, the one to see right now is Center Stage. It's about a school year in the life of three teenage girls who are roommates at a ballet academy in New York. They pass the auditions to get into the school, but then have to work as hard as possible to move on from there. At the end of the year is a workshop performance where they can be seen by most of the people in the industry who could hire them, including the resident company. They work toward and hope for a career in the most demanding pursuit imaginable, facing gifted competition, and placed on a limited schedule. "A dancer has ten years, maybe fifteen if they're not injured" in order to peak in their career and be the best they can ever be. A singer can sing most of their life. An actor can act all his life. A dancer's clock is ticking. It's only a matter of time before they can only teach and choreograph, so there's a unique sense of urgency to start young, study hard, and survive. All that might make a good movie. Might not.
Along with the good, you have to take the less than good. The characters are nothing new. There's the naive female ingnue (Amanda Schull), the bad girl (Zoe Saldana), the favorite girl (Susan May Pratt), the cocky lead boy (Ethan Stiefel, "hailed as the most advanced male dancer in the world"), the nice guy dancer (Sascha Radetsky), the nice guy non-dancer (Eion Bailey), the gay friend (Shakiem Evans), the pushy mother (Debra Monk), the demanding teacher (Donna Murphy), and the dictatorial company director (Peter Gallagher). How'd he get in there? There's even a Russian figure skater (Ilia Kulik) in the cast as a dancer. By the way, everybody is amazingly good-looking. Kind of like, Friends as done by George Ballanchine. Only in the movies, right? The story is nothing new either. Will everything work out? Will their dreams come true? Will they survive the heartbreaks of love, and the bodyaches of dance? Well, it's the movies, isn't it? Since the cast features some of the youngest and best dancers in the world, the acting comes second. Often a distant second. Or third. Don't expect any awards to be handed out in that area. Some parts are surprisingly weak, but then they move on and get back to letting their feet do the talking.
Did I mention that the only reason to see this is for the dancing? The way it's filmed here is excellent, without actually having to go to a ballet. The beauty of movement, the grace of the girls, and the strength and skill of the boys is captured as well as any other movie in the subject you're likely to see. The big dance numbers at the end are worth seeing by themselves, including more modern styles. Beforehand, there are a couple of dance scenes without ballet. The kids go to a club one night and salsa, and later we see a bunch of Broadway hoofers in a jazz class lead by Priscilla Lopez (original cast of A Chorus Line) that reminded me of scenes in All That Jazz. Those were the most fun. Other scenes will remind you of The Turning Point, White Nights, and even Dirty Dancing. The comparison to Fame is inevitable. That was then, this is a new century. The natural talent, dedication, motivation, support, and ass-busting hard work needed to succeed at this kind of life is touched on here, but also touched on is the sheer love of the game. For dance itself. That's the main thing. E-mail and comments are welcome.
What can you say about a movie that not only makes you want to get up and dance yourself, but one that keeps you hanging on every dance step and word? Perhaps fabulous. While everyone was running off to see the spring Block Buster Gladiator, I was watching the sneak preview of Center Stage, along with 300 to 400 others. The chemistry between these first time movie actors was just amazing. That dancing was breathtaking and the plot was wonderful. It was full of surprises and excitement. Had to be my favorite movie in the last couple of years. There was barely any language and a bit of sex, but it was appropriate for the story line. This is a movie for everyone young and old. It is a must see in the theater, and I promise you it will get your heart pumping!
"Center Stage," a film about the lives of young modern dancers who want
nothing more than to make a name for themselves, dazzles with some of the
best on-screen dance performances since Patrick Swayze shook his hips in
"Dirty Dancing" thirteen years ago. Starring some of the most talented
modern dancers ever to hit the silver screen, "Stage" focuses its attention
on the lives surrounding the young dancers and their struggles for stardom.
The film is a revealing exploitation of the complexity associated with
modern dance, diving into the realities of dance phenoms that sacrifice
their social life for a role that will find them performing in front of a
Let's see--you've got a bunch of young hopefuls in a tough ballet school in NYC--you have the tough, but lovable, black girl; the token gay man; the sweet virginal heroine; the arrogant Russian guy; the sweet lovable guy who's perfect for the sweet heroine, but she doesn't know it; the b**** who's starving herself to death; the guy who loves her and wants to help her; the tyrannical (but lovable) ballet teachers--yep, they're all here! The script is utterly predictable, you know how it's going to end 10 minutes into the movie, but I loved it! The acting is surprisingly good, it's beautifully filmed, the whole cast is attractive and the dancing is simply superb. I wasn't bored once during the entire 2 hours. Well worth seeing.
I loved this for the dancing - the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, the dance of the little swans from Swan Lake, a bit of the Stars and Stripes, and some great modern stuff, especially the show sequence which works through Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai. The story is just a bundle of cliches in looks and personalities and you just know how it is all going to end. So, worth seeing for the dance sequences, but its turn off your brain time for the rest. With a stronger storyline this could have been a really good film. As it is, its a high 7 out of 10.
Being of the male persuasion, this isn't a movie I would typically go to
theater to see. However, not being the stereotypical male, I decided to
rent it on video and watch it together with my girlfriend.
This movie is your typical teenage gal film. All the elements are there... good girl, bad girl, holier-than-thou girl, homosexual friend, domineering mother, bad guy, good guy... the list goes on and on.
Jody Sawyer (played quite well by newcomer Amanda Schull) wants to be a ballet dancer. She is already good, but she wants to be the best. She joins on with a famous ballet school, and commences auditions for the all-out ballet blast at the end of the school year, where the dancers will be watched very closely, and some of them will be signed with major ballet companies.
Along the way, she runs into some problems with the other members of the school, as well as the company director. She finds that ballet schools aren't all they are cracked up to be. (Who knew?!) They are more about politics than they are about dancing.
She gets burned by one guy, encouraged by another, and tries to be the best she can. Eventually, she finds the way to her dreams, but not in the typical way, the one the viewer may expect.
Acting here is a tad hollow. However, for a cast of unknowns, it's pretty
fair. After all, this movie is about dancing, not about acting. As might be expected, everybody here is gorgeous. (Are they trying to tell us there are no visually unpleasant ballet dancers... anywhere?!) Aside from that, the storyline is rather unbelievable, and contrived. This leads to a loss of major points.
The best thing about this movie is the dancing. If you are a fan of ballet, be sure and rent this video. It has some of the best ballet dancing that can be seen in any other movie. In particular, the dance exhibition at the end is magnificent!
If you are male, watch this one with your female significant other. (It's good for points.) If you are a gay male, watch it with your male significant other. If you are female, just watch it, you'll love it, especially if you are into cotton candy type films. Overall, it it's no Oscar winner, but it isn't too bad, either. Did I mention the dancing was pretty good?
My Rating: 6/10
What makes this something unique? What the difference with other movies
I just can tell I'm not a fan of the dance things, I mean I really hate those many pop singers who abuse of the dance to hide their bad work, so for year I was avoiding these movies.
But when I saw the music video of this film, something was different, there was not the same old story with the cast of pop stars trying to show they are more than a cute face. There was a cast of amazing dancers showing the best of them in just a few minutes.
So, finally I found myself watching this movie with the strange desire about an endless story. Weird, but for one who doesn't like the dance, this was a discover of whole new world were the dancers and the cast make an incredible work in a story who deserve to be with the classic of these themes.
This movie it's not shallow love story of a group of teenagers trying to become in big stars, it's about the crash of the passion and the reality, the time when the real love for something has to be tested to found the perfect place in the universe of the society, something that it's hard to find in a good film.
Ballet movies are incredibly rare. Some are good movies even without the dancing and some are bad with great dancing. This movie happens to be an ok movie with incredible dancing. The characters are really caricatures with exaggerated behaviors that come off feeling very afternoon teen special-ish. The plot is incredibly predictable. You can tell what's going to happen to Jody after the first 15 minutes. However, this movie is lucky enough to have no less than three ABT members in its cast. Ethan Steifel is of course arguably the greatest male dancer in the world right now and while I was watching him I was struck with how similar he is to Baryshnikov. His every move looks effortless and gravity-defying. Sascha Radetsky shows that if he was with any other company that he'd be a principal dancer. Julie Kent should prove to be a mixture of Leslie Browne and Gelsey Kirkland and be an inspiration to another generation of girls. Amanda Schull shows a great deal of promise which really shows in the last number. Zoe Saldana is very good and is perhaps the most complex character. She carries off this acting job adequately. Susan May Pratt is of course the only non-dancer who is also lacking in any dance experience. It's actually kind of ironic that her character has to be the most technically accomplished of the students. However, she looks as natural in the environment as do her fellow dancer co-stars. The final dance sequences are amazing. One includes Rachmaninov's "2nd Piano Concerto" and is a beautiful piece. The other ballet is one that illustrates where ballet is heading. Full of flashy colors, flashy costumes, and effects, the sequence also includes some fabulous dancing. As long as you watch it for the dancing, this movie will please you. If you watch it as a movie than you'll be disappointed.
I understand that a movie must be about emotional expression, otherwise
people would not like it, but a film about dancing should be, in my
view, more about expression through dance. This film was not like that
and, even if it had some nice dance scenes in it, the rest was sadly
I may be biased, since I am watching the second movie in as many days about a self-obsessed blonde dancer who believes her feelings are more important than anything else, but I found the main character hard to sympathize with and the rest of them really cliché. The black girl with talent but lack of self control, the black gay guy, the blonde dance god and the nice muscular perfect boyfriend, the bitchy perfectionist and the overcontrolling mother, they are all in here, playing their cardboard parts in hard to believe scenes on the music of Michael Jackson and the like.
Bottom line: if you are passionate about dance and/or ballet, you might want to check it out, but bare in mind that the dancing here could have been replaced by sports or literature or automechanics and the script would have remained mostly untouched and the film very similar to something you've seen before on TV.
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