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A Ballet Classic: Center Stage

Center Stage 2

Center Stage (2000), streaming on Netflix, continues to be one of the most entertaining stories about ballet.  The movie is about 12 teenagers who enroll at the American Ballet Academy in New York hoping to make it into the company at the end of the year.  Jody Sawyer, (Amanda Schull) makes it in based on her potential despite her lack of training and bad feet.  Eva Rodriguez (Zoë Saldana) coming in on a scholarship is very talented but has a bad attitude.  And, Maureen (Susan May Pratt), who is less passionate about dancing, struggles with an eating disorder in the story.  Ironically, Maureen is the best dancer in the class but the actress has a background in modeling and architecture, not dance.  Amanda Schull, however, danced Ballet Hawaii, Hawaii State Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet, retiring in 2006.  Zoë Saldana whose parents are from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, began dancing while living in the Dominican Republic.  She trained at the ECOS Espacio de Danza Dance Academy.  Her dancing was a precursor to her acting career, landing her a role in Center Stage.  Recently, she was in Guess Who, Pirates of the Carribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Avatar, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Center Stage accurately and dramatically portrays the competition, lack of diversity, and issues of body type and eating disorders common in dance.  One dancer is encouraged to see the nutritionist because she’s not thin enough, although ballet companies have come a long way in supporting their dancers and encouraging healthy eating.  Eva Rodriguez’s position as the only dancer of color in the company is not a far cry from the real life story of Misty Copeland, who originally rejected from ABA due to her age and body type became one of the first African Americans to dance as principal lead for the New York City Ballet.  The sequel Center Stage 2 (2008) is the story of a self-trained dancer from Detroit tries to make her way into the most prestigious ballet academy.  While completely unrealistic in its ending, the story is rooted in issues related to the cost of ballet training, age and formal training as requirements for SAB as well.  It also explores some of the reasons a male dancers chooses to become a dancer, making a difficult choice to stop playing hockey.  Peter Gallagher plays Jonathan Reeves in both movies, but portrays the mannerisms and speech patterns remind us of Peter Martin, Master in Chief of Ballet for over 30 years at the NYC Ballet.

Both movies are rated PG-13 for suggested dance choreography, implied sex, frequent mild coarse language and some smoking.  Center Stage is certainly a more compelling and realistic story, but Center Stage 2 has a more comfortable Cinderella storyline with a Prince Charming who can dance.

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