The most unforgettable part of the 2000 dance movie Center Stage is — of course — its epic, dance-tacular finale performance. One of the ballets is a straight-up classic, but the other is an awesome modern dance performance that pretty much sums up the movie. Center Stage's final dance tells the story of the movie's two parallel love triangles in a very meta fashion. And let me tell you, even 15 years after the film was released in theaters, Center Stage and its grand finale still totally holds up as awesome.
In the movie, there are two love triangles involving bad boy ballet dancer Cooper Nielson. Cooper was dating fellow dancer Juliet, but then one day she revealed that she was having an affair with American Ballet Academy director Johnathan Reeves (Peter Gallagher) — and she was breaking up with Cooper to be with Johnathan. At the start of the movie, Cooper has arrived back in London in time to passive aggressively threaten Johnathan's masculinity and seduce a young ballerina named Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull), who's attending the ABA in hopes of landing in the company. She fends off the advances of cute nice guy Charlie, a fellow talented ABA student who is clearly a better guy and match for Jody. The moral of the story is essentially that Cooper is a jerk and nice guys should get the girl — but that would be saying Johnathan is a nice guy, which he isn't quite. But the movie tries.
Now, the final showcase dance doesn't quite rehash all of that, but it does combine both love triangles for a great summing up of the story and an epic finish. Here's the dialogue-free final dance, decoded.
Class Is In Session
Clearly, Cooper drew inspiration for his showcase performance from his own life — and he wanted to get under Johnathan's skin. Charlie plays the director of a ballet academy (ahem) and Cooper is the bad boy who whisks away a sweet ballerina (Jody) and steals her heart. The first part of this "chapter" mimics a ballet class, and then Cooper literally rides in on his motorcycle to cue Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." Boy does he shake things up.
Okay, so this is clearly the part that is inspired by Jody and Cooper's hookup. But it could also mirror an experience he had with Juliet. Moving on.
Here, Jody shows up to class unprepared and disheveled, but Charlie's caring and sweet about it. Of course, this is when Cooper decides to barge in and a dance-y ballet fight ensues — with actual fake punching. Cooper then accidentally hits Jody and she scurries away. This ain't your momma's ballet.
I've always had a soft spot for this part, mostly because it's so cool looking. The stage creates a New York City street and subway entrance, where the background dancers enter and exit. Charlie and Jody dance in the "street" as he comforts her after Cooper left her heartbroken (sound familiar?). Cooper shows up at the end to (peacefully) battle for her affections, but they wind up pulling on her in a tug-of-war.
"Canned Heat"/The "I Choose Me" Sequence
The tug-of-war between Charlie and Cooper soon morphs into this very red and bold sequence where Jody essentially chooses herself. She makes the guys chase her all over the stage and ends the performance dancing on her own (cue Robyn), spinning gracefully. It's her Kelly Taylor moment.
Images: Columbia Pictures (2); Giphy (2); Mallory Carra/Bustle (2)