Making the Grades
Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull) feels like she's won a lottery when she is chosen as one of a select few to become a student at the American Ballet Academy (A.B.A.). This year of instruction is also an audition to decide which of these dancers will be accepted into the troupe.
All of the candidates, male, female, straight, and gay, feel the pressure. In order to keep a ballerina figure, one girl becomes bulimic. Another hides her fear of rejection behind an 'I could care less' attitude. After being told she has the wrong body type and sloppy technique, Jody resorts to dancing out her frustration during an evening class at a recreational dance studio, unaffiliated with the A.B.A.
Of all the dance joints in New York, Jody coincidentally walks into the one that is frequented by Cooper Nielson (Ethan Stiefel), the Academy's top male performer. Although he had noticed Jody's good looks during brief encounters at the school, it's her sexy modern dance rendition that captures his attention. He invites her to his apartment for a one-night stand, but Jody mistakes the affair for something more meaningful.
When Cooper is assigned as the choreographer for Jody's closing recital, classical ballet is mixed with sexually charged modern dance, including a suggestive interpretation of a couple on a bed. Even more amazing is the positive reception received from the A.B.A.'s patrons who have come expecting conservative culture.
Dance fans will probably enjoy the energy of the performance, but the portrayal of sexual relationships outside of marriage, drinking, smoking and obscenities are obvious concerns. More subtle, but just as alarming is the message conveyed when Jody, unable to be an outstanding ballerina, finds fame by embodying sensual dance themes.
So, are we surprised? Whether it's the 80's film Flashdash or this film (Fleshdance?), only the dance has changed in this genre: the steps to becoming famous are still the same. The lure of the limelight can have a powerful effect on young audiences -- including the girl (with the wrong body type) practicing her pli0xE9 in the theater lobby after the movie.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Center Stage.
Ethan Stiefel who plays Cooper Nielson is famous in his own right as a member of the American Ballet Theater. Amanda Schull who played Jody Sawyer is an apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet. Why is it generally easier to teach a dancer how to act than it is to teach an actor how to dance?
The character Maureen, the class prima ballerina, is played by actress (not dancer) Susan May Pratt. If you have seen the film, can you remember how the director creatively handled this dilemma? (For those who haven’t, Maureen does more “posing” than dancing.) Why did the director choose someone with acting abilities over dancing abilities for this role?