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Center Stage Controversy - I object!


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#1 ballet_shalom_forever

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 06:58 AM

A lot of dancers seem to dislike the movie "center stage" because it portrayes the ballet world in a fake, unrealistic way.

They have all the "ingredients" for a politically correct ballet movie - the girl that really wants to dance but isn't 'what companies look for' (Jody Sawyer), the womanising dancer (Cooper - Ethan Steifel), the gay dancer (Erik), the dancer who's ben pushed into ballet by her pushy stage mom and is amazing but doesn't 'have the heart' (Maureen) and the gum chewing"rebel" (Eva) who just doesn't know how to suck up to the ballet master. Oh yes, and the girl who kick kicked out because she was getting too big.

Yet a lot of people (especially dance people) critised it for being not realistic enough and not showing things the way they really are, although that seemed the main goal of the film considering the type of characters (all common examples of dancers in the ballet world).

Even though I agree the movie was unrealistic in terms of showing the reall, hard stuff, one must consider, would a viewer actually want to see a movie about a day/month/year on the life of a dancer? Would anyone really watch if all the footage was of dancers massaging, sore, bleeding feet? I know I wouldn't! They showed Jody's feet at the end of a practice session which gave the viewer a glimpe into what's it like to dance on pointe and i think that was more than enough.
Besides, do you want some one attenting your performance to think "that poor dancer!" or "wow what a great piece and what a great dancer!".

I know not everyone hates Center Stage but just giving another opinion to the people who do.

thanks for reading,
Ballet_sh
:)

#2 Guest_Alicia_*

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 07:55 AM

I would also like to add, that as much as dancers may pick apart little details of this movie, it was a good way to encourage a diverse audience to gain some sort of understanding of ballet. I have numerous friends at college who loved this movie because it contained all the elements of a good love story. At the same time, these friends had no clue what the ballet world was like.

Exaggerated as this film may have been, it definitely gave the uneducated audience some sort of understanding of what it takes to get into a company.
and....
At least I am not bombarded with questions like, "What does a dancer do when they graduate from college? Go on Broadway?"

At some level, this movie has alleviated stereotypes that were completely wrong and replaced them with some that aren't too far from believable! :)

#3 dirac

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 01:46 PM

Both of you make good points. And hey -- they never said they were making a documentary. I'm not saying no one should nitpick -- it's very useful to have knowledgeable people point out things that movies and books get wrong. But considering that movies with the dance world as a subject don't grow on trees, I don't think too much complaining is in order. Center Stage is far from perfect, but on the other hand, how many movies at the local multiplex feature the dancing of Ethan Stiefel?


On the other hand, I have no problem with people beating up on Billy Elliot, which had pretensions to Seriousness, and did not present any real ballet dancing. Perfectly useless movie from a dance perspective.

#4 LMCtech

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 02:42 PM

My biggest complaint was not that it wasn't realistic (actually some stuff was, some wasn't), it's that the dancing wasn't very good or very ample. Julie Kent and Ethan Steifel were not shown at their best in the tiny amounts of dance footage that was shown, and the student dancers were also not shown very well either. If you are going to make a dance movie, please don't film the dancers from the shoulders up the whole time. Frustrating. Show me the DANCING!

#5 dirac

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 03:06 PM

True. The late Herbert Ross wasn't exactly Stanley Kubrick in the Directors' Pantheon, but he knew how to stage a ballet sequence for the camera. :)

#6 ballet_shalom_forever

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 09:29 AM

I haven't seen Billy Elliot but usually the films critics like tend to be not as entertaining. Even the male dancers I know didn't like it (and that is something bceause I assumed most of them would be grateful that a movie "in their honor" was shot).

As for the dancing on CS, what I tought was unoriginal was the was Ethan's character made a ballet entirely on his affair with Jody's character it wasn't very creative, and the dancer who played Jody Sawyer actually can't do that many fouette's, that's why they showed her close up on the last ones. She is a pretty young dancer, so I'm not critisising her, but I think they should have taken a few more days to shoot so she could get the time to nail them, OR simply let her do less. I don't know it just bothers me hehe.

Thanks for your replies!

Ballet_sh

#7 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 10:28 AM

ballet_shalom_ forever, that kind of cutting is pretty common in movies during dance sequences. Leslie Browne got the same kind of assistance for the Don Quixote pas de deux with Baryshnikov in The Turning Point, to cite only one example.

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 11:24 AM

It's a guilty pleasure, but the last time a group of us got together and watched the Turning Point, we all chanted along with Leslie Browne's fouettes, "one, two, three, FOUR!" and dutifully the camera would cut angles every fourth fouette. It was a little like Mr. Owl trying to find out how many licks it took to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop. The only other part we loved nearly as much was The Fight. (There's only one, and it's quite something.)

#9 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 12:48 PM

Ah yes, the Fight ("You keep your hands off my DAUGHTER!").

It always reminded me of a recurring sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus. Ladies and gentlemen, the World of History is proud to present the premiere of the Batley Townswomen's Guild's re-enactment of the battle of Pearl Harbor........

#10 dmdance

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 01:45 PM

I need to voice an opinion about Billy Elliot being that the movie was already mentioned. I don't think that it ever meant to be about serious ballet training. It never pretended or tried to be that. It was about a boy and his joy in and passion for dance. It was also about a family struggling through arduous economical. personal, and political times. On those terms, I found it to be an excellent movie. Perhaps not every movie that has dancing in it needs to be filtered through our elitist "ballet" minds. Just a thought. I couldn't "keep my mouth shut."

#11 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 02:08 PM

dmdance, thanks for speaking up. I quite agree with you that it was nice to see in Billy Elliot a depiction of a boy who is able to transcend difficult circumstances through his love of dance. And I also agree that the dance doesn't have to be ballet. On the other hand, Billy is aspiring to be a ballet dancer, and yet the dancing we see him do -- tap dancing and "Flashdance"-style thrashing -- isn't what I personally hoped for when I went to see the movie. So that was disappointing. (However, from the ecstatic audience response the film received when it was over, mine was a minority opinion. :)) I also meant that, precisely because Billy Elliot is more ambitious and serious in intent than Center Stage, it deserves to be judged by a different standard.

#12 BW

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 02:30 PM

Ah yes, The Turning Point - I have to say that I always did like it...but I felt sorry for Anne Bancroft's character... kind of made ballet vs family an either or type of thing. :o

OK dmdance, I'm going to hop on here and say that I loved Billy Elliot and for all the reasons that you've already stated!! :o

As for Center Stage, I enjoyed it, my daughter and her ballet friends all enjoyed it... Although I "hear" all the negatives that have been posted, I still thought it was entertaining - motorcycle and all. :P If any nondancers did see it, I think they would come away with more of an appreciation for the athleticism and hard work involved in ballet - and that alone would be a major plus, in my opinion. :)

#13 Cabriole

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Posted 22 June 2002 - 05:07 AM

My teen/adult beginning classes were packed after Center Stage (and Save the Last Dance) came out. We were even moved to the large studio, replacing the hip-hop class:D True, many only lasted one semester, but many have stayed on (I remember this also happening after Turning Point).

Personally, I prefer Wiseman's documentary of ABT: the truer sense of tedium, fatigue that we know to be 'company life'. Also, to be able to hold onto Ulysses Dove a bit longer and watch Ms. DeMille fight to remain choroegraphically vibrant despite the odds.

#14 Guest_Little Swan_*

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Posted 22 June 2002 - 04:04 PM

Cabriole- what exactly is this ABT documentary? And is it currently available? Sounds very interesting.....:)

#15 Cabriole

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Posted 23 June 2002 - 04:51 AM

Film is called Ballet by E. Wiseman. I know my local PBS station aired it a few years ago. You might want to check with your local library.


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