Center Stage

An ounce of self-awareness about its almost gleeful use of cliches would have improved this dance soap opera, in which a crop of students at a New York City ballet academy compete for spots in the company that runs the school. One has a rude awakening about casual sex; another, a bulimic, confronts her overbearing mother. In an attempt to be self-reflexive, the script has an upstart choreographer mount a “radical” ballet whose narrative—a ballet student is seduced away from traditional instruction—is the same as the subplot the choreographer's enmeshed in. But the climactic performance is distorted by cinematic cheating—editing that makes the stage set and costume changes instantaneous—without being visually stylish. Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George) directed a screenplay by Carol Heikkinen; with Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk, and Ethan Stiefel. 113 min.

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