Center Stage is a 2000 movie about a (fictional) group of teenagers enrolled at the American Ballet Academy in New York City who each dream of being hired into the prestigious American Ballet Company at the end of the year-long course.
Ballet 422, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a 2014 documentary that chronicles the making of the New York City Ballet’s 422nd original piece and focuses on its creator, 25-year-old dancer and choreographer Justin Peck.
There are many — many — similarities between the two films.
1. Not that anyone was arguing this, but ballet requires a tremendous amount of hard work.
At one point, the dancer on the left has been working for over an hour straight before the choreographer realizes and breaks for water. In Center Stage, Maureen (Susan May Pratt) and the rest of the ABA, on the right, meet for class every day of the week for multiple hours a day.
2. And dancers are not given a lot of time to learn a lot of steps.
The man tossing the girl on the left was added just two weeks before the first curtain. Eric (Shakiem Evans), in Center Stage (right) got hurt the night before the workshop and had to be replaced by someone that had not even been rehearsing his role.
3. Choreographers also have a very hard job and have someone at their side throughout the entire process to help make adjustments and fix inaccuracies.
Justin Peck (left), the choreographer of NYCB’s 422nd original piece, works on a routine with a fellow choreographer. In the film Jonathan, played by Peter Gallagher (right), offers notes to Juliette (Donna Murphy).
4. Choreographers often figure out the next sequence in a dance during rehearsals.
Peck, (left), thinks about how to take a dancer out of a turn. Cooper, played by Ethan Stiefel,( right), figures out how to get Jody (Amanda Schull) onto her feet.
5. A ballerina walking “on pointe” to her awaiting partner is a common and effective entrance.
8. Or really, three!
But it is not unusual to have three main dancers work in a triangle.
9. In ballet, even the smallest movement is critiqued until it is perfect.
Peck, (left), goes over an elbow bend multiple times with a dancer. Juliette, (right), adjusts Jody’s ribs.
10. Dancers stay in the studio late into the night practicing the same routine over and over.
Peck, (left), is recording his steps to see what different sequences look like before teaching them to his dancers. Jody, (right), is practicing crossing the floor “on pointe” — or on her toes — over and over to perform better in class.
11. And even the best ballerinas get tripped up over certain moves.
Peck’s lead ballerina, (left), gets stuck coming out of a turn. Eva, played by Zoe Saldana, (right), also gets stuck coming out of a turn.
12. But it isn’t strange for dancing to sometimes be just walking.*
*It’s definitely harder than it looks. But definitely not as hard as when they walk on their toes.
13. Dancers wrap their feet a lot before putting on ballet “slippers.”
Slippers is in quotes because the word slipper is often associated with comfortable footwear. Not in this case, especially when standing on your toes in them.
18. Right before the curtain comes up, the cast is on stage warming up.
Listen closely from the orchestra for the pitter-patter.
19. A good ballet has a tall, dark, and handsome dancer involved.*
*Not necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt!
20. And in many cases, the choreographer is also a dancer.
Peck, (left), has one number to change out of his choreographer’s suit and into his ballet shoes. He is also a dancer in the NYCB’s Corps de Ballet, which performs the same night as his show. In Center Stage, Cooper, (right), fills in when the lead in his performance gets injured.