Center Stage – Every Girl’s Dream (?)

“…the film brings honor to the art of ballet and the strife of dancers of all ages, [but], logistically, there are some snags in the fabric of the happy ending that Jody Sawyer selects.”

The past few days for me have been more than eventful. There are no words to describe the happiness and pride that radiates from attending and supporting the wedding day of a dear friend. This past Wednesday I packed my bags, wrapped my Bed, Bath, & Beyond goodies for the bride and groom, hung my cornflower blue bridesmaid dress in the backseat of my car and set the GPS for New York. From Wednesday evening through the late hours of Sunday, there was time to reconnect with close friends and to begin new friendships too. Amidst the bachelorette festivities, introductions to the groom’s family and friends, and some good ol’ manicures of course, three of us bridesmaids set aside time for a movie. Two of us dancers, one not, we obviously chose the 2000 classic, Center Stage

Whenever I curl up to enjoy this movie, I never cease to be amused by its antics and also occasionally confused by its values. While the film brings honor to the art of ballet and the strife of dancers of all ages, logistically there are some snags in the fabric of the happy ending that Jody Sawyer selects.  While I truly enjoy every late 90’s jam of the soundtrack, the classic beating of the pointe shoes scene, and the pure beauty of the authentic artistry of Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel, my, perhaps hundredth, glance at the values within makes me retrospectively fear for my young self as a viewing audience.

As I hovered around a laptop this past week with my two friends, we laughed in amusement/shock as we watched Amanda Schull’s character develop—a young girl with clearly no appropriate concept of relationships as she entangles herself within the life of her “boyfriend”/choreographer (a million times quoted, because they literally have one passionate encounter and then never date or interact outside the studio again…come on Jody, you’re better than this…aren’t you?). Who can blame her for falling for his bad boy charm and flawless technique, but girl, this ain’t the time! You are on the brink of your career! There are bigger “fish to fry” for god-sake. While the doe-eyed lead’s obsession with this male figure makes for the perfect dance-meets-love mini-drama, it’s also a concerning snapshot of the dominance of male authoritative power within the dance world.

“While I truly enjoy every late 90’s jam of the soundtrack, the classic beating of the pointe shoes scene, and the pure beauty of…authentic artistry…my, perhaps hundredth, glance at the values within makes me retrospectively fear for my young self as a viewing audience.”

Curtains closed on the final performance, Jody dons her semi-formal attire to hear whether or not her fate includes ABC (the “American Ballet Company”). While her decision here is gutsy, I  actually find it rather terrifying. It makes for great movie content, but Jody again falls headfirst into the outstretched arms of Cooper Nielson, and accepts a (potentially non-existent) principal dancer role in a brand new company. No, no, no, no!! Where’s the contract? Where’s the funding?! Are there even other dancers?!! Jody asks zero questions, and dives right into the opportunity. As an uber-organized, planning obsessed, practical individual, I naturally struggle with this, but now with five years of professional experience and additional years of training under my belt, I can tell you that that is not the way to accept a job. It’s the perfect lack of detail to cue the happy ending, Mandy Moore track, and end credits, but if you’re going to survive as a “bunhead” out there please don’t take a page from Jody Sawyer’s book.

Don’t get me wrong, this will forever be one of my favorite dance movies-a film that brings dancers and non-dancers alike together under the guise of the ballet world and its complexities. However, if I stood near Jody at barre I’d have to snicker to myself a bit and wonder, “girl, what are you doing with your life?” After all…

“I am the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you?!”

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