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Center Stage (2000 film)

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Center Stage
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNicholas Hytner
Written byCarol Heikkinen
Produced byLaurence Mark
CinematographyGeoffrey Simpson
Edited byTariq Anwar
Music byGeorge Fenton
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing[1]
Release date
  • May 12, 2000 (2000-05-12)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$ 18- 29 million.[2][3]
Box office$26.3 million[4]

Center Stage is a 2000 American teen drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner about a group of young ballet dancers from various backgrounds who enroll at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York City. The film explores the issues and difficulties in the world of professional dance, and how each individual copes with the stresses. This movie was Zoe Saldana's and Amanda Schull's film debut.

The single from the film's soundtrack "I Wanna Be with You" is performed by Mandy Moore. The song became Moore's highest-charting song in the US at number 24, becoming her only top 40 song in the nation. It spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked during its 9th week on the chart.[5]


After a series of countrywide auditions, twelve young dancers gain entry to the American Ballet Academy (which is loosely based on the School of American Ballet), the affiliate school of the fictional American Ballet Company. At the end of the year, there will be a final dance workshop which will determine the three boys and three girls who will be asked to join the company. The workshop will also provide an opportunity for the students to showcase their talent to other ballet companies across the country. A lead part in the workshop is therefore essential to secure a dancer's future.

The film focuses primarily on star student Maureen, naïve newcomer Jody Sawyer, and smart aleck Eva Rodriguez, as well as Jonathan Reeves, the company's aging choreographer and director, and Cooper Nielson, the company's star dancer who also wants to choreograph. The two have a tense relationship due to the fact that Cooper's ex-girlfriend and fellow dancer, Kathleen, left him for Jonathan.

Maureen is a closet bulimic who is miserable despite her success at the ABC until she meets handsome pre-med student Jim, who shows Maureen what a life without ballet could look like, much to the dismay of Maureen's controlling stage mother Nancy. Eva is naturally talented but her bad attitude and clashes with instructors mean she will be doomed to the corps. Despite her passion and energy, Jody struggles in class due to her poor footwork. Jody's parents and teachers attempt to convince her to leave the program but she refuses to give up on her dream. While attending a modern dance class, Jody runs into Cooper, who encourages her love for dance. The two have a one-night stand and Jody becomes infatuated with him, despite his indifference to her afterwards.

For the end of the year workshop, Maureen is given the lead role in the performance directed by Jonathan while Eva is relegated to the corps. Cooper choreographs a rock/pop music-based ballet based on his failed relationship with Kathleen and selects Jody to be the lead, along with dancers Charlie and Erik. Charlie has a crush on Jody and encourages her to forget about Cooper when Cooper berates her during rehearsals. When Erik is injured during the final rehearsal, Cooper decides to dance the role himself, further inflaming the tensions between him, Jody, and Charlie. Shaken by Erik's injury, Maureen goes to Jim and admits that she no longer wants to dance. Meanwhile, Jody and Eva rehearse after-hours and Eva finally takes direction from dance instructor Juliette Simone.

At the workshop performance, Maureen doesn't show and her lead part is given to Eva, who impresses the company and the audience. Maureen's mother is furious but Maureen insists that dancing is no longer her dream and she is going to live life on her own terms. Cooper's pop/rock ballet is also well-received and after the performance, Cooper tells Jody that he has found a financial backer to start his own company. He invites Jody to be his principal dancer, which she accepts. He tries to rekindle their relationship but Jody rebuffs him in favor of Charlie. Eva is invited by Jonathan to join the ABC based on her workshop performance and her improved attitude. Charlie and Erik are also accepted into the ABC and Sergei, Charlie and Erik's roommate and friend, joins his girlfriend Galina at the San Francisco Ballet Company.

In the closing credits, the dancers are seen rehearsing at their respective dance companies while Maureen begins university classes with Jim and finally makes friends.



Of the main characters who are dancers, four are professional ballet dancers (Amanda Schull, Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky, and Julie Kent), one is a professional figure skater (Ilia Kulik), one had ballet training (Zoe Saldana), and two were actors with no ballet training (Susan May Pratt and Shakiem Evans). Body doubles were used for many of the major dance sequences. Dancers from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre filled the classrooms of ABA and corps in the workshop ballets, some of them later became principal dancers, including Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, Jonathan Stafford, Jared Angle, Janie Taylor and Rebecca Krohn.[6]

The film was choreographed by Susan Stroman who won an American Choreography Award for it.[7][8]

The subplot in which Cooper attracts the financial support of a flirtatious wealthy female philanthropist is mentioned in an August 15, 2004, The New York Times article entitled "How Much Is That Dancer in the Program?", which revealed that Stiefel has a very similar real-life sponsorship relationship with a philanthropist named Anka Palitz.[9]


Box office[edit]

The film opened at #6 at the box office making US$4,604,621 in its opening weekend.[10] The film has grossed a total of $26,385,941 worldwide.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Center Stage received moderate to negative reviews. The film holds a 42% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 81 reviews with an average rating of 5.03/10. The site's consensus states: "Viewers willing to sit through soapy plot contrivances to see some excellent dancing might enjoy Center Stage; for everyone else, there's still always Fame."[11]

The New York Times critic A. O. Scott wrote for the film:

The script, by Carol Heikkinen, has a lot of business to take care of before the Big Show, which is its mandatory climax, and it steamrolls through its expository scenes with more efficiency than grace, as though in a desperate hurry to reach the next commercial break. Cooper's climactic dance, Ms. Stroman's work, at first looks like a horrifying compilation of Dirty Dancing pelvic action and the kind of knee sliding and arm-waving that was mercifully quashed at this year's Oscars.[12]

Contactmusic.com gave the film just two stars, commenting that:

Along the way misguided affairs (Jodie falls for the cocky, beloved star of the Company), eating disorders and injuries crop up, pushing the plot along. As do unfortunate lines like, 'I'm not dancing for them anymore; I'm dancing for me.' The only solace from such schlock is the fact that the film makes it clear from the start that it exists simply to showcase the dancing itself. As such, it's no shock when the choreography upstages the screenwriting. Ultimately the story line here is as stupid as the final "rock" ballet. The characters are one-dimensional, as are their "struggles." In fact, the territory is so familiar that it's almost excusable. With that said it's still hard to watch Center Stage and be able to get the familiar opening music to Fame out of your head; it's also hard to remember why you're not simply watching that film instead.[13]

Other reviewers were more charitable. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that the film "ends with two big ballet numbers, wonderfully staged and danced, and along the way there are rehearsals and scenes in a Broadway popular dance studio that have a joy and freedom."[14] Meanwhile, Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune also gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that "In casting for dance talent rather than acting, director Nicolas Hytner may have given up a little dramatic grace, but what he gains in dance footage (that ranges from ballet to jazz to salsa) more than makes up for that."[15] Eng also wrote that "although the film's ending is a little too neat and happy to be realistic, it does leave you with the feeling of young girls taking charge of their lives. In Hollywood films, that's as exotic a dance as you are going to see."[15]


The single from the film "I Wanna Be with You" is performed by Mandy Moore. The song became Moore's highest-charting song in the US at number 24, becoming her only top 40 song in the nation. It spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.[5]

  1. "I Wanna Be with You" – Mandy Moore
  2. "First Kiss" – i5
  3. "Don't Get Lost in the Crowd" – Ashley Ballard
  4. "We're Dancing" – P.Y.T.
  5. "Friends Forever" – Thunderbugs
  6. "Get Used to This" – Cyrena
  7. "A Girl Can Dream" – P.Y.T.
  8. "Cosmic Girl" – Jamiroquai
  9. "Higher Ground" – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  10. "Come Baby Come" – Elvis Crespo & Gizelle D'Cole
  11. "The Way You Make Me Feel" – Michael Jackson
  12. "If I Was the One" – Ruff Endz
  13. "Canned Heat" – Jamiroquai
  14. "I Wanna Be with You" (Soul Solution Remix) – Mandy Moore


A sequel to the film titled Center Stage: Turn It Up starring Rachele Brooke Smith was first released in cinemas in Australia on October 30, 2008, and debuted in the United States on November 1, 2008, on the Oxygen channel.

Another sequel Center Stage: On Pointe premiered on Lifetime on June 25, 2016. The film stars Nicole Muñoz and former Dance Moms star Chloe Lukasiak and features alumni from the first two films mentoring a younger generation of dancers.

Television series[edit]

On May 12, 2020, which was the film's 20th anniversary, it was announced that a follow-up TV series is in development. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson will write, direct and executive produce the series. Laurence Mark, the producer of the original film, will also serve as an executive producer. The series will follow a new group of students at the American Ballet Academy, now run by Cooper Nielson.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Center Stage (2000)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  2. ^ https://www.boxofficemojo.com/title/tt0210616/
  3. ^ https://www.the-numbers.com/alpha/movie/Center-Stage#tab=summary
  4. ^ a b "Center Stage (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  5. ^ a b "Mandy Moore Chart History | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  6. ^ "The Making of "Center Stage," as Remembered by Its Dance Stars". Dance Spirit. April 22, 2020.
  7. ^ Levy, Emanuel (May 9, 2000). "Center Stage". Variety. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  8. ^ "Susan Stroman". Music Theatre International. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  9. ^ Kinetz, Erika (August 15, 2004). "How Much Is That Dancer In the Program?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  10. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for May 12–14, 2000". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  11. ^ "Center Stage". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  12. ^ Scott, A. O. (May 12, 2000). "FILM REVIEW; A 'Fame' for Today's Dancing, Striving Adolescents". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  13. ^ Deahl, Rachel (November 2005). "Center Stage Movie Review". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 12, 2000). "Center Stage". Rogerebert.com.
  15. ^ a b Eng, Monica (May 12, 2000). "Thrilling Dancing Raises the Barre in 'Center Stage'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  16. ^ "'Center Stage' TV Series From Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Based On 2000 Film In Works At Sony Pictures TV". Deadline. May 12, 2020.

External links[edit]