Twenty years ago the world was treated to an instant classic, starring Zoe Saldana in her first film role, Peter Gallagher before he was Sandy Cohen on The O.C., and a cast of professional dancers, famous in the world of ballet. It’s spawned a few sequels and now a rumored television series. Of course, I’m talking about Center Stage—only the greatest dance movie ever made.
Ask most millennial dancers and they’ll tell you how influential this movie was to their upbringing. Some people had classics like Singin’ in the Rain or Top Hat, others had A Chorus Line or Dirty Dancing. Well, my generation has Center Stage. The first time I ever saw Center Stage was on TV and I only saw the ending, the final dance showcase. Then for some reason, I kept finding the movie on TV, but it was always the ending! I had no idea what the story was, so all I kept seeing was: a motorcycle driving onto a stage in the middle of a performance, dancers changing clothes and hairstyles in the middle of a dance. How did she all of a sudden have cornrows? Why was there a bed on stage?! The audience could see everything! Most importantly, how did she get those red pointe shoes!?!
I probably saw only the ending three or four times before I watched the movie in it’s entirely. Once I did, I was hooked. I bought the DVD, listened to the soundtrack incessantly. For most people, when they hear Jamiroquai’s smash hit,”Canned Heat”, they think of Napoleon Dynamite, but not me. I picture Jody Sawyer’s fouette combination in her red costume and those iconic red pointe shoes.
If you been a friend to the blog for a while now, you know that I am a dancer—I may not be able to dance anymore, but I will always be a dancer. I started dancing when I was three and went steadily until I graduated college. I would still take class every now and then, but nothing consistently. Growing up, my dance friends were my best friends. we were around each other constantly. I can’t tell you how many times we watched this movie, quoted our favorite lines, and when we were old enough for pointe shoes of our own, we did exactly what the dancers in the movie do to break in our shoes. To this day, I still know all the moves to the jazz class combination to “Higher Ground”, covered by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This movie is still so influential for so many people. Getting to watch a movie about the thing you love the most is so important. How many football, baseball, or basketball movies are out there and continually being made? That’s not something you can say for dance movies, more importantly, ballet movies. A ballet movie that casted real professional ballet dancers because they wanted the authenticity. I went to see a the ballet Sleeping Beauty for my birthday when I was in college, and I recognized Sascha Radetsky (Charlie in the movie) on stage, dancing a featured role. Even Zoe Saldana, who wasn’t a professional ballerina, had a strong dance background going into the film. I feel like this movie also became really importantly for male dancers. They are shown strong male dancers, excelling in a profession that is mostly female.
This continues to be one of my all-time favorites and one of my go-to feel good movies. Okay, there’s my rant on how much I love Center Stage. If you’ve never seen the movie, I’m sorry you’ve lived a life without joy. Just kidding, it’s streaming on Netflix. Give it a watch!