Dancers are kuh-razy!
by Adam Miller
I admit, I've always been a bit snooty about dance. As a literary kind of guy, I never understood why someone would want to take the words out of something like, say, Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET and replace it with music and movement. I mean, it's not like R&J is all that great a story, it's just that the Bard is a damn good writer. That said, in my admittedly uneducated opinion, the two minute snippet of ROMEO AND JULIET: THE BALLET (i'm guessing that's not really what it's called) is the best scene in CENTER STAGE. It captures with utmost elegance and efficiency the new and exciting eroticism between our titular lovers in a way that would surely make old Billy proud. The scene reminds me why dance can be a truly moving art form (haha, believe it or not that pun was not intended and I was being serious for a moment, but obviously I've now lost all credit with any dancers who may be reading this review. Oh well.)
CENTER STAGE is a film about a bunch of 19 year old ballerinas trying to make it big in the American Ballet Company (ABC). To do this, they must first become the best of the best in the American Ballet Academy (ABA)- the feeder school for the ABC.
Of course, they call it the American Ballet Academy, but I think a more apt name for the place might be "The Nexus of All Fortuitous Deus Ex Machina and Serendipity Ballet School." This is because, well, everything that happens in this movie is a complete contrivance of the script rather than, say, character development or conflict.
Dancers, you see, are a bunch of extremely competitive, emotional, and sexually agitated people, which isn't a stereotype at all. This tends to get them into trouble which only a benevolent script can get them out of. For the sake of historic record, I'll detail some of the crucial plots and resolutions…
1. Main character is pretty but a flawed dancer. She ends up having sex with the lead male dancer for the ABC who just happens to be choreographing the advanced student workshop production and casts her as the lead… He then spurns her and breaks her heart, which she then channels into the best dance of her life!
2. The best technical dancer in the school falls for a Columbia med student who loves to eat pizza and drink beer. Torn between two worlds the young woman breaks down, becomes bulimic (briefly), and eventually gives up the world of dance for a normal life of love and pizza.
3. The sassy new girl is one of the best raw talents in the school, but her attitude keeps her from getting the lead part, luckily the other best dancer in the school gives up the world of dance for a normal life of love and pizza (see #2) and sassy new girl gets the part!
4. The lead male dancer for the ABC (see #1) has become a jaded lover (aka womanizer) and does everything he can to piss off the head of the ABC who stole his ex-girlfriend. This eventually leads to him breaking off and forming his own dance company at the end of the film bringing along the main character as the female lead, though no longer innocent lover (see #1).
Now, I just summed up most of the film in about 8 sentences, but the film itself actually has me beat. After sitting through about 90 minutes of watching professional dancers try to be professional actors (two very different skill sets, I assure you) you are treated to the final dance number (see #1 and #4) which features a motorcycle, an explicit sex scene, and a brawl between male ballerinas! Yeehaw! In other words, the final dance recaps the movie VERBATIM (well, I guess not verbatim since there are not words, but you get the idea). What are the odds that the choreographer could plan out a dance which involves events in his life which haven't even happened yet! Even if it were possible, I suppose no one taught this guy the meaning of subtlety.
Nor the makers of the film who methodically pose and resolve every dance stereotype I can think of. The movie delivers exactly what it expects to deliver, which isn't much but a rehash of the already too familiar genre of FLASHDANCE, DIRTY DANCING, you know, MOVIES WHERE PEOPLE LEARN TO DANCE. CENTER STAGE certainly doesn't add much.