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ballet_shalom_forever

Center Stage Controversy - I object!

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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

:)

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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! :)

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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.

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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!

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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. :)

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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

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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.

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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.)

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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........

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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."

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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.

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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. :)

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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.

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

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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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My main beef with Center Stage is that I found Jonathan's boring, stick-in-the-mud, ivory tower ballet to be better choreographed and more interesting than Cooper's exciting and hip real-world ballet. Also, if Jody Sawyer's physique and technique are so substandard, why on earth did she get admitted to what was supposed to be the finest ballet school in the country?

It was interesting, though, that when the ballet mistress was addressing the other students in the film, she called them by the names of the real-world dancers portraying them: e.g. " Relax your fingers, Janie" to Janie Taylor; " This is a chasse, not a tombe, Pascale" to Pascale van Kipnis, and " Beautiful, Aesha" to Aesha Ash.

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I saw ''Centre Stage" when it came out in theatres and haven't watched it again since. What bothered me about "Centre Stage" was that it completely perpetuated ballet stereotypes. It's true that many of the 'characters' (i.e. rebel ballerina, gay male dancer) are common in the ballet world, but the ones portrayed in the movie were over simplified, 1-dimensional. It encourages people to categorize dancers, but few dancers fit perfectly into one of these pre-defined personas. (Our tendency to do this simplifying and categorizing thing bugs me a lot! It's a total rejection of individuality. And it's not just in films like these. Open a magazine and you'll see '5 types of guys who blah blah blah...' or quizzes to find out who you are- are there are only 4 options!). It makes people say "oh, she's one of those dancers. I've got her all figured out." Other than that, the unrealisticness of Jody getting into 'ABC' with poor turnout, and some of the cheesy lines, I agree that if it gets the public interested in ballet, great! And a lot of the younger dance students I know loved it along with my non-dancer friends! I guess it comes down to, what do we have to do to sell ballet to a large audience? Should it be dumbed down and infused with flashy choreography/costumes/music and sex scenes to attract the public and make money? Or does that devalue the initial meaning of the art?

I prefered "Billy Elliot", not for the dance sequences of course (which were disappointing), but for the story (not just the main plot). The acting here is much better than in "Centre Stage". (Jamie Bell was great, I thought). The ballet scenes aren't realistic though: boys don't wear ribbons, girls don't usually wear tutus to class, and auditions are quite different now. If you watch it with a ballet critic's eye, then it's a failure. However, if you watch it for what it is- a regular movie that just happens to be about ballet, directed and produced by people that aren't experts in ballet- it can be entertaining.

As for the notion that the movies film critics like are usually "not as entertaining". I have to agree and disagree (this is a little off topic). If one's idea of entertainment is non-stop action and special effects, then yes. But critics have to study a lot of film theory (or so I should imagine) and their tastes are more cerebral than the average viewer. They look for good acting (not just good looks) and cinematic technique and probably some originality (what hollywood lacks). After watching blockbusters all the time, it takes a while to train one's eye to appreciate the subtlety of foreign/art/independent film. But I think it's well worth it. Some critics however, can get overly pretentious and give a film 5 stars just because it is abstract and from Europe. Sometimes I agree with critics, but sometimes the films they praise are verrry slow (i.e. Cannes' camera d'or winner "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner"- I really wanted to like it, since it's Canadian, but boy was it slow! Or another Cannes winner "Rosetta"- cinema verite style takes getting used to).

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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!"

Hmph. And people tease me because I like to count fouttes. At least I pick dancers who are more of a challenge!

I liked a lot of Billy Elliot. It certainly had its flaws, oversimplifications, and mawkish sentimentality. But I can certainly identify with a character who repeatedly falls over while practicing pirouettes!

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I enjoyed Centre Stage for a while, though it's so cheesy and simple I sure got tired quickly.

Billy Elliot I could watch over and over. I think it's a wonderful story. It makes me want to be 10 again, when you could have all that potential, that genius to go in any direction you want. And it makes me wonder what on earth I was doing at age 10 - watching tv no doubt!

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All I can comment on regarding Billy Elliot is the trailer, since seeing it convinced me not to see the movie.

In the trailer Billy is first seen wearing boxing gloves and headgear--the huge, pillow-like gloves that amateur boxers use in training. The narrative of the trailer makes clear that he is drawn away from the manly art of self-defense and toward the gentler pursuit of dance.

Which makes him odd, of course, and which I thought was the central conflict in the movie.

Wouldn't it be nice if the movement was the other way--that ballet training was considered the norm for young men and that a few of them, of inexplicable reasons, wanted to become boxers.

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Oh, there was no way I was going to let this thread end on that post! Billy Elliot is one of the most touching and inspiring movies I've ever seen! Ed, do see the movie - you may be surprised. Trailers can be so misleading. The movie never makes Billy out to be odd because he's a useless boxer and likes ballet. Rather he is very ordinary, but what separates Billy is his big talent and dreams and the movie is about not letting family or circumstance hold you back from your potential. It's the people around him that see him as a bit of an oddball but they have their own quirks (so ultimately all differences are celebrated as being ordinary) and their harsh judgements are realistic ones anyway.

On your last point, I know it's not the same but we did have this British tv programme called 'Faking It'. It's a series testing people's ability to completely change their identities. Kasper Cornish a ballet dancer from London had just one month to transform himself into an aggressive wrestler and take on the former NWA World Champion in front of a paying audience and a panel of professional judges. I think he was successful-ish, but wrestling wasn't really for him and he went right back to ballet.

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I absolutely loved Center Stage, it was a bit cheesy, but hey, it's eye candy, and who doesn't love that!?! LOL :)

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Ballet movies are to me what Star Trek movies and shows are to a Trekkie. I don't care if it's good or bad, I'm going to go see it. Sometimes, it's good. Sometimes, it's bad. Sometimes the story sucks but you get treated to a few minutes of exquisite dancing. At least it's out there for the general public to see.

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Piccolo, I wholeheartedly agree. We're too hard on the movie or any dance movies for that matter. Sure, it was cheesy. Sure, it was strangely written in alot of places. But, it did bring our art back to the "Joe Sixpack" masses. Dance is a hard thing to portray realistically unless it is in a documentary sort of arena.

So, sometimes whether we really like them or not.....we need to buy the video, go to the theatre, and see them. So that it will give the impression that there is a market for them. Someone will get it right every 10 movies or so and then we'll be glad we did.

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I think Center Stage was a really entertaining movie. Probably for the people who knows to much about dance not because it is not perfect at all .But not everybody thinks like you guys!!

Normally ballet is seen like boring but this movie shows another face of dance making that with the time you may enjoy ballet as a real lover. About Billy Elliot I must say it was really dissapointing for me .I expected to watch lovely dance sequences and real passion for dance and found a tragic story that made sad . Just an opinion !:D

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