In this day and age of Netflix and clouds, I don't really own any DVDs anymore. And the ones I do own are pretty important to me: Several seasons of The Simpsons, the complete series of Sports Night I bought at a library sale for $3, Upstream Color (my favorite serious movie) and Center Stage, which is the greatest dance movie of all time. Center Stage is celebrating its 15th anniversary and even way after its release in 2000, I still seem to be learning new things about it. It truly is the movie — and DVD — that keeps on giving.
I got the DVD for my birthday from my best friend from high school, who also loved the movie. The best part about this Center Stage DVD isn't just the commentary (remember when that was the thing people loved about DVDs?), but the deleted scenes and the extended dance sequences. Yup, that's right — this DVD is the special edition, which also used to be something people loved about DVDs. And since Center Stage hasn't made it to Netflix Instant yet, I occasionally do pop that DVD in and enjoy some awesome dancing, sweet melodrama, and just an overall fun to watch flick.
Are you ready to learn some new stuff about Center Stage? Whether you already know these facts or not, come on this journey with me back to the hallowed halls of the American Ballet Academy.
The Dancers Are Actual Dancers
Originally, the studio wanted to cast TV actors in the roles of the dancers, but Director Nicholas Hytner refused — he wanted to cast real dancers and actors with dance training. "Luckily, my counterparts at the studio were persuadable about casting it with dancers, or I wouldn’t have done the film," he told Playbill.
Amanda Schull (who played Jody Sawyer), Sascha Radetsky (Charlie), Ethan Stiefel (Cooper Nielson), and Julie Kent (Juliet) are all professional ballet dancers. Even Zoe Saldana, who played Center Stage's rebellious but talented Eva Rodriguez, had some ballet training under her belt.
Cooper Nielson Had A Sponsor In Real Life, Too
In Center Stage, a wealthy lonely widow who loves ballet takes a liking to Cooper and wants to sponsor his dance company. It seemed a tiny bit creepy in the movie, but it's actually a thing that has happened in real life. And not to any ballet dancer — to Cooper's own portrayer, Stiefel. He was sponsored by Anka Palitz, a board member of the American Ballet Theater where Stiefel danced as a principal.
''The first time you look at your photo and you see where you're from and 'so-and-so's artistry is supported by whoever' — the first time it's a little different. But you get used to it," Stiefel told the New York Times in 2004.
Hytner Has Been Knighted
In 2010, Hytner was knighted, so make sure you call him "sir."
Hytner Took On The Script Because Of The Final Dances
The highlight of every dance movie is the big dance finale, because that's what you're working your way to — and Center Stage does not disappoint. It's flawless. It's spectacular. It's totally meta. And it's totally why Hytner, an accomplished musical theater and Broadway director, wanted to direct the script.
“The main reason for doing the movie was the final half-hour,” Hytner told Playbill. "The standard of dancing in this movie is stratospherically high. There’s an exhilarating contrast between the kids I’ve met who want to be movie stars and the kids in this movie. These are young professionals; they look at what they do as vocations. This is a fun movie, but I hope some of that comes across."
The Film Was Once Titled The Dance Movie
Like many Hollywood films, Center Stage went through a number of rewrites and title changes before its final shooting script. Playbill revealed that one of those titles was seriously The Dance Movie. Yikes.
There's A Sequel — And It's Not That Great
In 2008, someone somewhere realized that there was still interest in a little ol' movie called Center Stage and they decided to make a low-budget, TV-movie sequel called Center Stage: Turn It Up. I tried to like it. Really, I did. But I fell asleep during it. Then I tried again and I fell asleep again. I tried and failed many times to sit through this movie, and eventually I had to give up.
From what I remember, it mostly deals with a girl who gets rejected from ABA and meets an ABA guy who is willing to tutor her in the ways of dance for her next audition. And all of this is done mostly in the back room of her job as a bartender or waitress. Flirting and romance ensue, but I never made it that far. My advice: Stick to the original movie.
The Deleted Scenes Feature More Dancing
All right, it's time for some Center Stage DVD scoop, because no one buys DVDs anymore. One scene, called "Cooper At Rehearsal," is Cooper with his benefactress at a rehearsal with Juliet. The student dancers watch behind a railing, as if this is they're the Grey's Anatomy old school interns observing a surgery. Not very interesting.
The next one is called "Charlie Shows His Stuff, and it's a little more interesting, if you're into watching Charlie do some expert dancing. See above.
The Extended Dances Feature More Professional Ballet
Remember the ballets that the ABA students watch Cooper and Juliet in? Those dance sequences, titled "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Stars and Stripes," are featured on the DVD.
The Mandy Moore Music Video Is Essentially An Extension of The Movie
As an extension of me loving Center Stage, I naturally love Moore's soundtrack and unofficial movie theme song "I Wanna Be With You." It's sweet and so 2000, and also comes up at the right time in the movie. And if you're ever wishing for a Center Stage sequel that isn't Center Stage: Turn It Up, I recommend watching the dance school-themed music video for this song. I mean, it comes close and it plays scenes from the movie in it.
Image: Columbia Pictures (screenshot); Giphy