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Center Stage Controversy - I object!

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#16 BalletNut


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Posted 23 June 2002 - 12:08 PM

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.

#17 Paquita


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Posted 24 June 2002 - 04:59 AM

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).

#18 Manhattnik


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Posted 24 June 2002 - 05:52 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!"

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!

#19 sylvia


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Posted 24 June 2002 - 08:02 AM

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!

#20 Ed Waffle

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 08:35 AM

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.

#21 sylvia


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Posted 06 July 2002 - 04:56 PM

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.

#22 JewelTutu


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Posted 21 July 2002 - 07:13 PM

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

#23 piccolo



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Posted 25 July 2002 - 02:48 PM

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.

#24 workinprogress3



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Posted 25 July 2002 - 06:43 PM

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.

#25 Guest_Amy_Dance_*

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Posted 15 August 2002 - 07:43 PM

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

#26 dufay



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Posted 16 August 2002 - 09:25 AM

Speaking of the ABT documentary- which I have watched nth times thru the years, and always find entertaining- who is the very young dancer being offered a contract before she finishes school? I can't see from the angle.

#27 Guest_Broken Shimmer_*

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Posted 21 August 2002 - 03:49 PM

I was reading an interview with Amanda Schull and she said that the directors kept asking "Would you really do this in a rehershal?" "What about this combination?" "Is this realistic?" So they did try and moake it as realistic as possible but you're right, if it was really what a dancer's life is really like they would be bored to death. Practice, eat, sleep, practice, eat, sleep. Whoa, exciting movie...

#28 LMCtech


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Posted 22 August 2002 - 04:29 PM

I'm going to say this again: it was a mediocre movie. It was a one dimensional movie about a three dimensional world. I was severely disappointed in the choreography above all else. I was amused by that whole Kent/Steifel/ artistic director love triangle gone horribly sour. That was actually the only part that rang true to me.

And I disagree that a movie about what a dancer's life is really like would be boring. You just have to pick the right dancer.

#29 Old Fashioned

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Posted 22 August 2002 - 05:19 PM

Thank you, LMCtech. If I ever have a career in film directing, I know exactly who's life I would base my ballet movie on... Although there is already an amazing documentary, I think a full blown movie would be much more entertaining and reach a larger audience, and there will definitely be more dancing.:) Eh- good dancing.

#30 Watermill


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Posted 22 August 2002 - 07:41 PM

I'm assuming, OF, that you're referring to SF...but who could ever portray that miracle? I would rather savor the dimming memory of seeing her bring nuance and phrasing to the smallest moments and movements imaginable, than watch Follywood stumble at capturing the uncapturable.

I would preface the following paragraph by reminding the young balletomanes who love this film that I am just expressing my humble opinion and do not wish to diminish their enjoyment of CS. But a Forum is a place for opinions, isn't it?

I share LMCtech's low opinion of CS. While certainly not an awful film, it's soap opera stereotypes were solidly aimed at a target audience and the film sacrificed huge chunks of dance reality to sell tickets. I thought the walk-out/suprise replacement was ridiculous, exceeded only by the motorcycle/mattress de deux. One of the biggest problems was it had the wrong Director: Nicholas Hytner is primarily a West End/Broadway Stage Director; had a quirky (and very "stagey") artistic hit with "Madness of King George", then a sitcom-like "Object of My Desire" (also written by a playwright: Wendy Wasserstein) Then Center Stage.
Huh? What in the name of Billy Wilder made them choose this guy to direct? He's a journeyman film director at best and I thought it showed. (Some earnest acting and good dancing were exceptions)

BTW: Watch "Mr Holland's Opus" with musicians and you'll get the same cringing reaction. Especially embarrassing is the clarinet practice scene where he ties to get her over "the break", and she's not even near it, nevermind over it. Reed players will know what I mean. What a mess...even worse than CS, I think.

Anyway, brace yourselves: a real film director, Robert Altman, starts shooting his film The Company with the Joffrey in October.

Don't let me down, Bobby...

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