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Center Stage

Center Stage


In this stirring dance drama, Jonathan Reeves, a visionary director, shakes things up at the prestigious American Ballet Academy by introducing contemporary flair and coaxing esteemed choreographers to discover fresh talent. The stakes are high as dancers vie for a coveted spot in the renowned institution's ranks.

Runtime: 115 min

Box Office: $26M









User Score


6.7 /10

IMDb Rating




User Score

Check out what happened in Center Stage!

The curtain rises on Jody Sawyer, an 18-year-old ballerina with a passion that transcends physical limitations, as she auditions for the prestigious American Ballet Academy (ABA) in New York City. Despite being told her feet and turnout are subpar, her determination and raw talent earn her a spot among the elite. As she settles into her dorm room, Jody meets her roommates Eva Rodriguez and Maureen Cummings, each with their own distinct background and struggles. Eva, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and Maureen, a product of upstate New York's upper echelons, clash due to their vastly different experiences and biases.

As Jody and Eva form a bond, they venture out into the city, where they meet Erik, a charming gay dancer who introduces them to his network. Their nocturnal escapades lead them to Erik's room, where they encounter Sergi, a seasoned Russian ballet dancer with years of experience at ABA, and Charlie, a newcomer whose instant chemistry with Jody sets hearts aflutter.

The girls soon find themselves immersed in the world of pointe shoes, as the head of the company, Jonathan Reeves, a former ABA alum himself, guides them through the rigorous training. However, Juliette Simone, one of the school's esteemed instructors, is quick to notice Jody's less-than-ideal turnout, hinting at potential challenges ahead.

As the girls pause to watch the boys, they're mesmerized by the presence of Kathleen Donahue, a legendary ballerina and ABA alumnus. Maureen whispers secrets about Kathleen's tumultuous past with Cooper Neilson, a renowned dancer and ABA instructor who has returned to his alma mater. Rumors circulate about Cooper's exploits in London, where he allegedly indulged in his fair share of romantic entanglements.

Maureen's own struggles intensify as she confides in her mother, a former ballerina herself, who exerts immense pressure on her daughter to succeed at any cost. As Maureen navigates the cutthroat world of ballet, it becomes clear that her determination to reach the top will stop at nothing, even if it means blurring the lines between ethics and morality.

As the curtain closes on a captivating performance of Swan Lake, followed by a poignant rendition of Romeo and Juliet danced with poise and precision by Cooper (actor's name) and Kathleen (actor's name), the audience is treated to an evening of refined elegance. Meanwhile, Jody and her fellow students from ABA are busy peddling their wares amidst the festivities, basking in the glow of praise for their own impressive performances.

As the night wears on, a group of mischievous dancers, including Jody (and friends), slip away to claim the iconic Lincoln Center stage as their own playground. Their impromptu antics are short-lived, however, as Cooper and Kathleen burst onto the scene, only to be followed by a heated exchange between the star-crossed lovers, with Cooper perceptively noting an undeniable chemistry between them, while Kathleen attributes it to mere acting and reveals her happiness in her current marriage, before exiting in a huff.

The following days unfold with Jody struggling to come to terms with her uncertain future as a dancer. It becomes clear that ballet may not be the right path for her, leaving Jonathan (and Juliette) no choice but to share their concerns with her, much to her distress. In a separate development, Jim (Eion Bailey), a charming young waiter with a pre-med student and part-time waiter at Columbia University, takes a chance on Maureen, asking her out on a date, which she accepts.

In an effort to lift Jody's spirits, Eva concocts a plan to take her friends, Charlie, Erik, and Sergi, out for a night on the town. The group descends upon a lively salsa club, where Jody and Charlie lose themselves in the music and each other's company, while Sergi finds himself at the receiving end of flirtatious advances from an older barfly after spinning a web of deception about his supposed affiliation with the Russian Mafia.

As the evening wears on, Jim and Maureen embark on a low-key bowling outing with Jim's friends. Maureen, however, is woefully unprepared for the experience, having spent her entire life under pressure from her mother to excel in dance. Later, they gather around the table, sharing pizza and attempting humor, but it's clear that Maureen is out of her element. After some gentle prodding from Jim, she finally takes a few tentative bites of pizza. The night concludes with Jim dropping Maureen off at her dorm, where she retreats to the bathroom to purge her emotions in private.

The morning after a night of revelry, Jody (alongside Eva, Charlie, Erik, and Sergi) face the consequences of their actions in the form of a grueling ballet class. However, their collective hangover proves too much to overcome, earning them an early exit from the studio. Their punishment is a menial task: cleaning the mirrors in the very same space where they had previously let loose. As they go about their chores, Maureen looks on wistfully, her expression a poignant reminder of being left out of the tight-knit group's camaraderie.

Jody decides to take matters into her own hands, seeking solace in a dance class elsewhere in New York City. Her frustration with criticism and self-doubt regarding her ballet skills prompts this change of scenery. Meanwhile, Cooper (her soon-to-be-mentor) enters the Broadway dance class, his presence commanding attention as he assists and dances alongside Jody.

As the night wears on, Cooper extends an invitation to join him for a post-class "dessert" gathering, where wine and intimacy flow freely. The next day, Jody's interpretation of their encounter is skewed, leading her to believe they are in a romantic relationship - a notion further reinforced by Kathleen's mocking jabs.

In the days that follow, Jonathan announces the casting call for the end-of-year workshop, revealing that Charlie, Erik, and Jody will be featured in Cooper's new ballet choreography. Maureen and Sergi, meanwhile, secure lead roles in Jonathan's production, while Eva is relegated to a supporting position in the corps de ballet.

As rehearsals progress, it becomes increasingly apparent that Cooper's ballet is an autobiographical exploration of his own experiences with Kathleen and Jonathan. The obviousness of this narrative thread only adds to the tension and intrigue surrounding Jody's burgeoning relationship with her mentor.

In the lead-up to Erik's birthday celebration, the group gathers, accompanied by Jim and Maureen, who tags along for the festivities. A rented limousine and a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty provide the backdrop for a night filled with laughter and camaraderie. However, beneath the surface, subtle tensions simmer: Charlie confesses his feelings to Jody, only to be rebuffed due to her perceived connection with Cooper.

The following day, during a tense dance rehearsal, Charlie discovers the truth about Jody's supposed relationship with Cooper. A balletic showdown ensues, but ultimately, Cooper emerges victorious. Meanwhile, Maureen struggles to find passion in Jonathan's choreography, her performance suffering as a result.

As the story unfolds, Jody finds herself drawn to Cooper (and Kathleen) as they perform George Balanchine's "Stars and Stripes" at the Lincoln Center. Kathleen is well aware of Jody's feelings for Cooper, yet he remains oblivious, denying any romantic involvement. After the performance, Jody waits patiently for Cooper, only to be left disappointed - and alone - as he departs with another woman on his arm.

As the curtain rises on another grueling day of rehearsal, a palpable sense of tension hangs in the air like a thin layer of fog. Jody's frustration boils over as she confronts Cooper about his indecisive nature in the dance, but it's clear that her true ire is directed at the uncertainty surrounding their tumultuous relationship. Cooper's blunt admission that he doesn't do relationships only fuels the fire, and Jody's anger eventually gets the better of her as she storms out of the studio. Charlie, ever the peacemaker, tracks down his friend and persuades her to stay on board, despite her lingering resentment towards Cooper.

Meanwhile, another dancer, Emily (Victoria Born), has been struggling with self-doubt and insecurity throughout her time at the school. Her frustration with her own body image comes to a head as she packs up her belongings and departs the academy, unable to overcome the constant criticism she's faced about her physical appearance.

As the drama unfolds backstage, Jim and Maureen (who has been secretly struggling with bulimia) have a heart-wrenching argument about her eating disorder. Jim's well-intentioned but misguided advice sparks Maureen's anger, leading her to lash out at him before storming out of his apartment. Her parting shot, "I am the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you? Nobody!" is a poignant reminder of the immense pressure she feels to succeed.

Days later, during a particularly grueling rehearsal on stage, Erik suffers an injury that leaves him unable to dance. Cooper's immediate response is to demand that Jonathan, the understudy, take his place, but Jonathan is adamant that Cooper should not assume the role himself. The tension between them threatens to boil over as Cooper hints at pulling the ballet altogether.

That evening, Maureen returns to Jim's apartment, her apology for her earlier outburst hanging in the air like a fragile flower. As they reconcile, she confides in him about Erik's injury and can't help but wish that it had been her instead. The conversation is a poignant reminder of the emotional toll that their rivalry takes on both dancers.

As the night wears on, Maureen turns to Jody and Eva for comfort, revealing her growing frustration with the lack of fulfillment she finds in her life beyond dancing. Her friends offer words of encouragement, reminding her of her remarkable talent and the opportunities that lie ahead. Eva's wistful comment, "I wish we could trade places," speaks volumes about the deep-seated insecurities that plague many dancers.

Finally, on Performance Night, the curtain rises to reveal a stunning rendition of the Italian Symphony, led by Anna (Megan Pepin), one of the top contenders for a spot in the company. The performance is a resounding success, leaving the audience and dancers alike in awe of the beauty and athleticism on display.

As the curtain rises on Jonathan's turn to shine, a stunning twist unfolds when Eva takes Maureen's place as the lead, sending Sergi and the theater audience abuzz with surprise. Meanwhile, in the lobby, Maureen and her mother engage in a heart-wrenching confrontation, with Maureen confessing her dissatisfaction with life at the academy and her desire to leave behind the world of ballet. Her mother's stern rebuke only fuels Maureen's determination, as she asserts that practicing ballet is her own dream, not just a passing fancy.

In a dazzling display of creativity, Cooper takes center stage for his final dance performance, weaving together a fantastical tapestry of motorcycles, leather pants, and ballet-inspired sexiness. Jody, Charlie, and Cooper execute their choreographed moves with precision, their fluidity a testament to the complex emotional dynamics between them.

As the evening draws to a close, Jonathan announces the new members of the American Ballet Company, with Eva and Anna securing spots alongside Erik and Charlie. Jody, meanwhile, receives an offer from Jonathan to join the company, but she declines, instead opting to join Cooper's fledgling dance troupe. As the news spreads, the group gathers outside in the lobby, congratulating one another on their respective achievements.

Jim reappears, seeking to reconnect with Maureen after her earlier confidences about leaving ballet behind. Jody, meanwhile, delivers a stinging assessment of Cooper's romantic prowess, stating bluntly, "Cooper, you're a great choreographer and a talented dancer. But as a boyfriend... you kind of suck." Charlie offers Joey a sympathetic ear, before Jody asks her to join the celebration that night – a request she accepts with a tender kiss.

As the credits roll, a poignant montage unfolds, showcasing the group's disparate paths: Eva, Erik, and Charlie dancing in harmony at ABC; Sergi pirouetting with his girlfriend for a San Francisco ballet company; Maureen forging new connections as she begins her college journey, finally free from the constraints of dance; and Jody taking center stage as a principal dancer at Cooper's company.