Center Stage (2000 film)

For other uses, see Center Stage (disambiguation).
Center Stage

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by Laurence Mark
Written by Carol Heikkinen
Starring Amanda Schull
Zoë Saldana
Susan May Pratt
Peter Gallagher
Debra Monk
Ethan Stiefel
Sascha Radetsky
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Geoffrey Simpson
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
May 12, 2000 (2000-05-12)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million[1]
Box office $26,385,941[2]

Center Stage is a 2000 American teen drama film, directed by Nicholas Hytner, about a group of young 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.


After a series of country-wide auditions, 12 young dancers gain entry to the American Ballet Academy (which is loosely based on the School of American Ballet). They work hard, attending classes every day for weeks to make them the best dancers they can possibly be, and in preparations for a final dance workshop which will determine the three boys and three girls who will be asked to join the American Ballet Company (which appears to be based on either the American Ballet Theatre or the New York City Ballet). The workshop will also provide an opportunity for the students to showcase their talent to other ballet companies across the country. Gaining a leading part in the workshop is therefore essential.

Tensions mount between Jonathan (Peter Gallagher), the company's aging choreographer and director, and Cooper Nielson (Ethan Stiefel), his best dancer, who also wants to choreograph. They also have issues because Kathleen, Cooper's ex-girlfriend and fellow ballet dancer, left him for Jonathan. Star student Maureen (Susan May Pratt), a closet bulimic who seems poised for success, discovers that life is passing her by when she meets a pre-med student who shows her life without ballet. Sweet Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull), despite body type issues and bad feet, is determined to dance professionally but it appears less and less likely as the movie progresses that she will be good enough. After Eva stands up for Jody in class and is kicked out of class Jonathan, Maureen, and the cold hearted ballet teacher Juliette Simone (Donna Murphy) try to convince Jody to move on from dance and go to college. Jody refuses to give up on her dream of being a professional dancer. The talented but smart-mouthed Eva Rodriguez (Zoe Saldana) loves to dance but seems destined to be stuck in the back of the corps because of her attitude. Tensions also arise between Charlie (a naturally gifted fellow student) and Cooper. Charlie has a crush on Jody, who had a one-night stand with Cooper and remains infatuated with him.

Despite Jonathan's objections, Cooper choreographs a rock music based ballet for the workshop. Three ballets are being presented; Jonathan and another choreographer create the other two respectively—the two more "traditional" ballets are not danced to actual ballet music, however. The first is to Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, while Jonathan's ballet is set to Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto. Cooper's ballet mirrors the relationship between himself, Jonathan, and Kathleen. Jody, Charlie, and their gay friend Erik (Shakiem Evans) are set to dance the three lead roles when Erik sprains his ankle in a rehearsal. Cooper then steps in to fill the role, and the tensions between Jody, Charlie and Cooper play out on the stage.

After the final workshop, Cooper starts his own dance company much to Jonathan's chagrin, as Cooper's financial backer is a woman that Jonathan was hoping would donate to his own company. Cooper asks Jody to be a principal dancer as her dancing style, though technically behind, is perfect for the kind of dance he wants in his company. He also asks to date her, but Jody turns him down in favor of Charlie. Maureen decides to give up ballet because she finally realizes that ballet is just something she does well, and not what she wants from life. She decides to attend regular university and also seek help for her eating disorder. Eva is picked by Jonathan to join the prestigious American Ballet Company after proving her worth in the workshop – secretly taking the place of Maureen, who had the lead, in Jonathan's ballet. Jody's boyfriend Charlie, and their friends Anna (a girl who was always favored by Jonathan) and Erik are also asked to join the American Ballet Company, and Sergei (a Russian dancer who also befriended them) joins his girlfriend in the San Francisco Ballet Company.

There is a subplot in which Cooper attracts the financial support of a flirtatious wealthy female philanthropist (played by Elizabeth Hubbard). An August 15, 2004 New York Times article entitled "How Much Is That Dancer in the Program?" revealed that Stiefel has a very similar real-life sponsorship relationship with a philanthropist named Anka Palitz.



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.


Critical response

Center Stage received moderate to negative reviews.

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.[3] 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.[4]

The film currently holds a 43% "Rotten" score, on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Box office

The film opened at #6 at the box office making $4,604,621 USD in its opening weekend.[6] The film has grossed a total of $26,385,941 worldwide.[2]


  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 Soul Solution Remix) – Mandy Moore


Center Stage: Turn It Up is a sequel starring Rachele Brooke Smith. It 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 film, Center Stage: On Pointe, premiered on Lifetime on June 25, 2016. The film stars former Dance Moms star Chloe Lukasiak and features alumni from the first two films mentoring a younger generation of dancers.


  1. "Box office / business for 'Center Stage'". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  2. 1 2 "Center Stage (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  3. Scott, A. O. (2000-05-12). "Movie Review – Center Stage". NYTimes. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  4. "Center Stage Movie Review". Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  5. "Center Stage Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  6. "Weekend Box Office Results for May 12–14, 2000". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-10.

External links

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