6 Reasons 'Center Stage' Is The Ultimate Dance Movie, Because It Features Real Dancers
Confession time: Center Stage is one of my most favorite movies. Sure, it hasn't won any Oscars and it actually has so "OMG-So-Bad-It's-So-Good" moments. I also believe it happens to be the ultimate dance movie out there — even moreso than the little seen parody movie Dance Flick from 2009. There's just something so earnest and fun and just plain lovable about Center Stage, which was released — can you believe it? — 15 years ago. It seriously feels like just yesterday I saw the commercial for the movie on TV and declared, "I must see that movie." (Yup, I knew I'd love it before I even saw it.)
When the film was originally released in 2000, critics didn't seem to have as much as I did for the movie, which follows a group of young dancers at the fictional American Ballet Academy in New York City. Center Stage has 43% "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes, but hey, the movie is more Degrassi dancing than Black Swan, which is right up my alley — and many other people as well. There was enough interest in Center Stage years after its release to make and air a sequel called Center Stage: Turn It Up on Oxygen in 2008. But trust me, it doesn't come close to matching the greatest of the original.
And not many dancing movies ever will. Here are the reasons Center Stage is the ultimate dance movie.
The Dancers Are Played By Actual Ballet Dancers
In some many dance movies, I became accustomed to the camera merely focusing on an actor's dance-double's feet during a big performance. But that's not the case with Center Stage. The main cast is filled with actors who have dance-training or dancers-turned actors.
Amanda Schull, who plays Jody Sawyer, studied ballet on scholarship at Indiana University, then studied and joined the corps de ballet of the San Francisco Ballet. Before she was in Avatar, Zoe Saldana played Center Stage's rebellious but talented Eva Rodriguez with some ballet training under her belt. Superstar dancer Cooper Nielson was played by a superstar dancer as well — protrayer Ethan Stiefel was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater from 1997 to 2012.
Two other star ABT dancers also had roles in the movie: Good guy Charlie was played by Sascha Radetsky, a soloist danseur, and Juliet was played by Julie Kent, a principal dancer. So they all clearly knew their stuff.
The Dancing Is So Good
And since the characters are actual dancers? The dancing is so much fun to watch. Especially the final dance, which is essentially the story of the movie's two parallel love triangles and so meta it'll rock your brain.
Peter Gallagher's Eyebrows
Just face it: You can't deny their magic. Even if Gallagher does play Johnathan Reeves, the intimidating director of ABA.
The Director is a Famous Musical Theater Director
Center Stage was directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, who has a very legit list of credits: Miss Siagon, The Sweet Smell of Success, and The History Boys on Broadway, the 1996 film The Crucible, and the 1998 comedy-drama The Object of My Affection, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.
Hytner also served as Artistic Director of London's National Theatre from 2003 to 2015 and he was knighted in 2010. He's a pretty big deal in the theater world and it totally translated to Center Stage. Hytner told Playbill that the main reason he wanted to direct the movie was because the final half-hour of the film's huge awesome dance numbers.
It Has Some Issue-y Supblots — But They Totally Work
Like most dance movies, Center Stage also has some melodramatic storylines, like bulimia, body image issues, and that one character who's from the wrong side of the tracks. And yes, there's a PSA moment where a mother of a kicked-out student tells Jody and Co. to love their bodies just the way they are. Aside from that kinda corny scene, the other subplots are actually kind of fun.
Maureen (played by Susan May Pratt) has bulimia, but it's mostly tied to her living her mother's dream of being a ballerina and not pursuing her own dreams. As for wrong-side-of-the-tracks Eva, well, she's just a badass who finally gets her opportunity to strut her stuff at the end.
The Soundtrack Is Amazing
The songs from Center Stage are super danceable and are also just awesome to listen to. The soundtrack includes a very 2000 Mandy Moore's "I Wanna Be With You," as well as Michael Jackson's classic "The Way You Make Me Feel," and "Canned Heat" by the 2000s artist Jamiroquai.
Images: Columbia Pictures (screenshot); Giphy (3); Mallory Carra/Bustle; Getty Images