Confession time: Center Stage is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure movies and I'm thrilled that the world of the American Ballet Academy is living on in sequel TV movies. The film's second sequel premieres on Lifetime on Saturday night, but how does Center Stage: On Pointe connect to the original? In addition to taking place in the same world of the ABA and the American Ballet Company from Center Stage, several actors from the 2000 feature film return in the upcoming sequel.
Returning from the original movie are uptight ABA leader Jonathan Reeves (played by Peter Gallagher), lovable Charlie Sims (real-life dancer Sascha Radetsky), and the cocky Cooper Nielsen (real-life dancer Ethan Stiefel). And Center Stage: On Pointe doesn't ignore the previous direct-to-TV Center Stage sequel from 2008, Center Stage: Turn It Up, which featured about 5 percent actual ABA dancers and 95 percent talented ABA hopeful Kate Parker (Rachele Brooke Smith) training with snobby student Tommy Anderson (Kenny Wormald) in the back of a nightclub. In Center Stage: On Pointe, Tommy, Kate, and Kate's sister Bella (Nicole Muñoz) reprise their roles from Turn It Up, and Bella is now the ABA hopeful at the center of the story.
Though 16 years have passed since the original Center Stage movie was released in theaters, it's not clear in Center Stage: On Pointe how much time has passed since plucky protagonist Jody Sawyer and the gang danced in the halls and into our hearts. It does seem like it takes place enough time in the future that both Jody and Kate are famous dancers, Charlie now is the head ballet master at ABA, and Tommy works as an instructor there. But it can't be too long in the future, since Jonathan is still embracing classical ballet and only classical — until he learns that the company is financial strapped. The solution? Add contemporary dance to the curriculum at the academy's dance camp to boost interest in the company.
This is where our new plucky protagonist Bella comes in, as a camper hoping to emerge from Kate's shadow and impress Jonathan among a whole new crew of ABA kids, including dance prodigy Gwen (Dance Moms' Chloe Lukasiak). In true Center Stage fashion, the movie also features rivalries, insecurities, crushes, foot trauma, a killer soundtrack, and — of course — one epic audition for the studio company to tie the whole movie together. Center Stage: On Pointe does stand on its own by taking the dancers out of New York City and placing them in a mini-ABA in the forest/nature, where they have bonfires, romantic dances under the stars, betrayal, and good ol' summer camp hijinks.
There are also plenty of callbacks to the original film. I almost squeed when Jonathan shows his campers a clip from the original movie's final dance sequence and he gives fans a much-needed update on Jody and Charlie's relationship. There's also an On Pointe dance that seems to play homage to the red dress in Center Stage's final dance.
With all of these connections to the original, Center Stage: On Pointe is a treat for fans of the original film like me who will be thrilled to see the ABA live on.
Images: Richard Hubbs/Lifetime (3)