‘Center Stage’ was granted a place by fans among canonical ballet films
In director Nicholas Hytner’s much-loved film Center Stage, students are orbiting the world of professional ballet as members of the American Ballet Academy, a school that promises them entry to some of the country’s most prestigious dance companies.
It’s an atmosphere of strict elegance and unwavering commitment to the art, but also one rife with ballerina love triangles, jealousies between choreographer and artistic director, and dancers who break under the pressure of it all. And, most notably, unlike many dance dramas, Center Stage cast actual ballet dancers to tell the story.
Of the film’s main characters, Jody Sawyer (played by Amanda Schull), Eva Rodríguez (Zoë Saldana), Charlie Sims (Sascha Radetsky), Cooper Nielson (Ethan Stiefel), and Kathleen Donahue (Julie Kent), the last three belong to the real-life American Ballet Theatre.
As for the rest of the dancers—ballerina extras stretching at the bar or populating the studio—many of them were also members of ABT. All this to say, only ABT could properly celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary…
In advance of the conversation, Vogue caught up with Radetsky, Schull, and Stiefel for a quick trip down memory lane.
Do you remember how you first found out about Center Stage?
Stiefel: I remember it vividly. I had a little message slip left for me in the “S” cubbyhole of the dancers’ mailboxes at ABT. The message was: “Laurence Mark, Columbia Pictures—please call.” That was all it said. I was pretty well shocked and it took me a moment to have it all register. Well, I made the call, and here we are today still talking about the film and my involvement!..