With his aristocratic line, unforced assurance and charming presence, Joseph Gordon stands out among New York City Ballet's corps men. During the company's 2015–16 winter season, he received an impressive number of opportunities to step into demanding roles, easily mastering corps, demi, soloist and principal parts.

Company: New York City Ballet

Age: 23

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Training: Phoenix Dance Academy, School of American Ballet

Accolades: Melissa Hayden Dance Scholarship at SAB and the 2016–17 Janice Levin Dancer Honoree at NYCB

Breakout season: Gordon debuted in two major roles in January. He was utterly convincing as the innocent, trusting Second Sailor in Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and followed that just two days later with his first performance as the ultra-sophisticated partner of three ballerinas in Balanchine's Who Cares? By the season's end, he was bringing a new, unsuspected elegance to the third movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C while maintaining its high spirits.

An instant balletomane: Gordon says, “My parents knew dance meant a lot to me after they took me to my first ballet, a Nutcracker, when I was 5. I was so excited I stood up for the whole performance."

Raves from colleagues: Ballet master Jean-Pierre Frohlich, who oversees the Robbins repertoire, recalls, “It was easy to direct Joe in Fancy Free. He just got better and better at every rehearsal." Principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht says, “It was a joy to share the stage with Joe in Fancy. His eagerness and charm brought his role to life."

Addicted to the best: When asked about the Balanchine roles he is eager to conquer, Gordon cites Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, “Rubies" in Jewels, Melancholic in The Four Temperaments and the Fourth Campaign in Stars and Stripes. One ballet that he speaks of in rapturous terms, however, is the powerfully abstract Agon: “I am overwhelmed by its concept. There's no major male solo, but it would be an honor to dance that pas de deux."

Bond rehearsing Cassandra Trenary for ABT's Innovation Initiative. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

 

Gemma Bond can be said to be leading a double life as both a dancer and a choreographer. British born, she has the distinction of having been a member of The Royal Ballet and now American Ballet Theatre. Today, at age 32, she is pursuing dancemaking more heavily. And as she’s grown as a choreographer, she’s also become a more captivating dancer.

But Bond’s dancing and choreographic voices weren’t always so confident. Like most dancers, she channeled all her energy into performing when she first joined The Royal. After being promoted to first artist, she took on challenging work, like Princess Stephanie in MacMillan’s Mayerling. “I learned to stand the way a peasant would stand, and much more, from ballerinas Tamara Rojo, Sarah Wildor and Lynn Seymour,” Bond says.

But after a few years in the position, she hit an artistic standstill. “I left The Royal because I felt I had performed everything I would there,” she says. Drawn by its extensive MacMillan repertoire and location in New York City, she joined ABT in 2008.

The urge to choreograph was sparked when ABT began what is now called The Innovation Initiative, a program to encourage fledgling dancemakers. “Gemma was one of the first to respond,” says ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie. “She emerged right off with a distinctive approach I’d call ‘architectural.’ It’s no surprise that she’s already been involved in three Initiative processes.”

Initially, Bond had trouble playing boss, not because of a shortage of ideas, but a lack of respect from her ABT colleagues. It was difficult for her to find the balance between being a dancer alongside them and the leader at the front of the studio. “I was just Gemma to them,” she says.

But her struggles must not have shown in her choreographic work onstage. One of her early workshop efforts made such an impression that Diana Byer, artistic director of New York Theatre Ballet, asked McKenzie if Bond could do a short piece for her company.

Working with NYTB gave Bond the confidence she needed to push her choreography forward. In 2013, she made a second work for the company, Silent Titles. It was very personal to her, and certainly ambitious: “Three movies inspired it,” says Bond. “The French film The Artist made me want to do a ballet in black-and-white that recaptures the spirit of the classic Hollywood musicals Gigi and White Christmas that I adore.” Set to Gottschalk piano pieces, it consisted of three short dances flanked by scenes set in a theater dressing room. Fan dances, tangos, jaunty music-box tunes—they’re all there. NYTB has since become a regular haunt of Bond’s. The troupe premieres her new work, The Assembly, at Danspace Project this month. And she’s also created pieces for Youth America Grand Prix, ABT soloist Craig Salstein’s Intermezzo Dance Company, University of Hartford and New York City Ballet’s New York Choreographic Institute.

Not surprisingly, as Bond’s choreographic voice and confidence have grown, so has her dancing. Being teamed with fast-rising soloist Joseph Gorak has brought her major roles in Liam Scarlett’s With a Chance of Rain and Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker. This spring the Los Angeles Times noted her performance in Ratmansky’s new Sleeping Beauty, in which she played the ballet’s rarely included role of Cinderella.

Bond is eager to let her experiences as a dancer inform her work at the head of the studio. Asked what she had learned from dancing for Ratmansky, she said with a sunburst of a grin: “Everything!”

Inside the latest American Ballet Theatre premiere

Liam Scarlett uses Hee Seo to demonstrate a lift. Photo by Kyle Froman.

Liam Scarlett defies all the clichés about “genius at work” and “artistic temperament.” Constructing an intimate pas de deux for American Ballet Theatre’s Hee Seo and Marcelo Gomes last fall, he conceived quietly attentive lifts and intricate steps with the cool deliberation of a mason laying bricks. The dancers, joined by the second cast’s Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns, repeated each phrase with calm, meticulous efficiency, then waited for the next.

Marcelo Gomes and Hee Seo work through a phrase.

At age 28, Scarlett is already The Royal Ballet’s first artist in residence and a choreographer in international demand. In addition to his ABT premiere, during the 2014–15 season Scarlett created a pas de deux for New York City Ballet and a narrative one-act for The Royal, and is now working on a three-act Carmen for Norwegian National Ballet before heading to the Royal New Zealand Ballet to choreograph A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

With a Chance of Rain, Scarlett’s first work for ABT, bristled with his characteristic use of soaring Soviet-style overhead lifts and sensational partnered descents unexpected from someone who looks as innocent as a dewy, curly-headed choir boy. He set the dance for four couples to six preludes and an elegy by Sergei Rachmaninoff, whose virtuosic demands have delighted audiences and terrified performers for over a century. Company pianist Emily Wong met these challenges repeatedly.

Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston hone the dynamics.

Occasionally, some of Scarlett’s instruction threatened to become impenetrably British: “Make this look more dextrous,” he told Gomes about a gesture. Fortunately, he demonstrated the move he meant and the intensity he wanted. Gomes, in practice clothes of clashing colors as boldly designed as a costume, matched the choreographer’s shapes. He and the other dancers worked through each phrase, again and again, as Scarlett repeated and refined every step.

 

 

 

Liam Scarlett uses Hee Seo to demonstrate a lift.  

 

 

Liam Scarlett defies all the clichés about “genius at work” and “artistic temperament.” Constructing an intimate pas de deux for American Ballet Theatre’s Hee Seo and Marcelo Gomes last fall, he conceived quietly attentive lifts and intricate steps with the cool deliberation of a mason laying bricks. The dancers, joined by the second cast’s Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns, repeated each phrase with calm, meticulous efficiency, then waited for the next.

 

At age 28, Scarlett is already The Royal Ballet’s first artist in residence and a choreographer in international demand. In addition to his ABT premiere, during the 2014–15 season Scarlett created a pas de deux for New York City Ballet and a narrative one-act for The Royal, and is now working on a three-act Carmen for Norwegian National Ballet before heading to the Royal New Zealand Ballet to choreograph A Midsummer Night’s Dream

With a Chance of Rain, Scarlett’s first work for ABT, bristled with his characteristic use of soaring Soviet-style overhead lifts and sensational partnered descents unexpected from someone who looks as innocent as a dewy, curly-headed choir boy. He set the dancefor four couples to six preludes and an elegy by Sergei Rachmaninoff, whose virtuosic demands have delighted audiences and terrified performers for over a century. Company pianist Emily Wong met these challenges repeatedly.

Occasionally, some of Scarlett’s instruction threatened to become impenetrably British: “Make this look more dextrous,” he told Gomes about a gesture. Fortunately, he demonstrated the move he meant and the intensity he wanted. Gomes, in practice clothes of clashing colors as boldly designed as a costume, matched the choreographer’s shapes. He and the other dancers worked through each phrase, again and again, as Scarlett repeated and refined every step. 

 

Janzen in "Diamonds" from Jewels. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

At last, New York City Ballet corps member Russell Janzen has found the success that had seemed inevitable when he joined the company in 2008. Though a stretch of injuries sidelined him at first, major roles are now regularly coming his way at age 25.

The 6' 3" dancer, who trained at The Rock School for Dance Education and then the School of American Ballet, got through recuperation from a late 2008 ankle sprain by telling himself it was a “growing experience." He returned to action, only to have a herniated disc a year later take him out for eight months. “That was pretty devastating," Janzen sighs. “But it made me realize how much I wanted to dance. Then I sprained my other ankle."

Janzen's career finally took off in 2014 after he got the plum solo that opens the finale of Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces and Peter Martins cast him with Teresa Reichlen in his Barber Violin Concerto. Dressed entirely in white, they looked so well matched they could have been mistaken for twins.

“I'd been waiting for years to get a tall guy. With Russell, I got someone who also brought me cookies for our first rehearsal of 'Diamonds,' " says Reichlen.

They've since been paired several times in the Balanchine repertoire. As Titania's Cavalier in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Janzen flawlessly supported Reichlen as she was coolly presiding over her leafy bower. In Concerto Barocco, he lifted her seven times in quick succession, making each ascent equally high, every descent similarly soft. Then on his own as the tormented Schumann in Robert Schumann's “Davidsbündlertänze," he ranged from the numbness of the emotionally drained composer to the agony expressed by a wrenching backbend.

Principal Daniel Ulbricht added Janzen to his group Stars of American Ballet for its Jacob's Pillow debut in July. “He has an unselfish, princely, refined presentation of his partner," says Ulbricht. “Even in the corps he makes a pas de deux into a regal performance." And as principal Sterling Hyltin points out, “He looks fab in white tights."

The NYCB Dancer moves with joy and energy.

 

Rehearsing Justin Peck's In Creases

Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy NYCB

The first pas de deux of Jerome Robbins’ I’m Old Fashioned may have the most daunting entrance in New York City Ballet’s repertory. Dedicated to Fred Astaire, it opens with a film clip from You Were Never Lovelier (1942) showing him and Rita Hayworth dancing to Jerome Kern. The less glamorous pair of dancers waiting in the wings for the movie screen to go dark—they are usually corps members—may already be experiencing flop sweat, knowing that when they enter they will have to compete with the image of two Hollywood icons standing three stories tall.

 

For 22-year-old, 5' 6"corps dancer Emilie Gerrity, who joined NYCB in 2010, this entrance last season became an opportunity to be welcomed, not a challenge to be dreaded. “I looked at my partner Justin Peck,” she recalls, “and zap! I suddenly realized we were going to be the only ones out there!” Her response was a joyous upsurge of energy that transformed what has often been conscientious partnering into a rapturous pas de deux.

 

“I try to bring something beyond steps and counts to my dancing,” Gerrity says. “The choreography comes first. Always. But if the thought of, say, a sunset fits the music and the movement, then I dance better when I keep that in mind as an extra inspiration.”

 

Gerrity started dance at age 5 with classes at Betty Jean’s Dance Studio in Wappingers Falls, New York. She found such satisfaction in meeting the challenges of the discipline that enrollment at the School of American Ballet became her goal. At 13, she began attending SAB’s intensive each summer. After three years, she was accepted as a full-time student in 2006. “I left home at age 15,” she says. “I came to this town all by myself and I intended to stay here.”

 

She may have been determined, but her SAB teachers don’t remember her as pugnacious or intense. Rather they recall a willowy dancer with limpid eyes and a voracious appetite for work. Kay Mazzo, co-chairman of the faculty, says, “You spotted her at once. As a teacher, you look for joy and energy, and she displayed both as she moved through space. If she needed a correction, she welcomed it, asked for more, and thanked you for helping her.” In 2009, Gerrity was named one of the winners of the Mae L. Wien Award, which the school gives to students of outstanding promise.

 

Roles began coming her way even while she was still at SAB. Justin Peck, who already had begun choreographing as well as performing in the corps, used students for dances he created while enrolled at the New York Choreographic Institute. “I cast Emilie for Quintet because I found her consistently musical,” he says. He has continued to use her since she joined the company.

 

Gerrity was in one of the four couples in his well-received In Creases (2012), his first work for NYCB. Peck’s ballets often contain passages suggesting a subplot just may lurk within a pas de deux or an emotion may have triggered a solo. Exercising a choreographer’s privilege of letting the dance speak for itself, Peck has carefully refrained from spelling out such intent; however, he didn’t forbid Gerrity from bringing an urgency to one passage of In Creases that was amusing yet as dramatic as a lightning bolt. The three other women in the ballet had no regular partners, but Gerrity had principal Robert Fairchild all to herself. Suddenly there he was, standing all by himself with the width of the stage between them. She shot to his side to prevent another dancer from claiming him. Thrilling as the urgency and abruptness of her move were, it was the sheer musicality of her running that sent reviewers plunging into their Playbills to learn her name.

 

She was easier to identify as the Fairy of Tenderness in last winter’s revival of Peter Martins’ Sleeping Beauty and impossible to overlook at this year’s fall gala, where she shared the stage in the world premiere of Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere with principal Sterling Hyltin and soloist Lauren Lovette. At one point all three had their arms interlocked in what resembled a revolving nail puzzle. Hyltin praises Gerrity as “an ideal colleague, gifted, dedicated, genuinely sweet.”

 

Life offstage is more relaxed, now that her career is in motion. She has a dog, Fredersicksen, and a boyfriend, photographer Seth Casteel, whose collection Underwater Dogs, she notes, “went viral on YouTube.” Fredersicksen wasn’t in it because Gerrity met Casteel after the book was finished. He’s a cavapoo and if that doesn’t qualify Gerrity as a bonafide New Yorker, nothing will.

 

Harris Green writes on ballet for Pointe and other publications.

 

 

Being short is no handicap for male dancers whose low centers of gravity can be a springboard to airborne virtuosity. Those possessing the artistry and technique to compensate for their stature include Vaslav Nijinsky, Edward Villella, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Herman Cornejo. Whether Daniel Ulbricht can join this distinguished honor roll remains to be seen, but New York City Ballet’s ballet master in chief Peter Martins has such faith in the dancer’s star power that he has created high-flying, technically demanding solos for him in his last three ballets. The decibel count during curtain calls always spikes when Ulbricht takes a solo bow.

 

Otherwise Ulbricht has failed to follow the usual ballet traditions. Yes, he did join his sister, Heidi, in ballet class when he was 11 years old, but before succumbing to that cliché, he had devoted five years to karate. “The Karate Kid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made a big impression on me,” he recalls. “I begged my folks to sign me up. Because my teacher, Kathy Marlor, always stressed self-respect and discipline, I carried her lessons over into ballet.” Before he decided to concentrate on dance at age 13, he had earned a second-degree black belt, won two Florida championships in kata—variations on established forms—and found time for gymnastics. It took a knee injury to slow him down—for a while.

 

He felt fortunate in his ballet teachers, beginning with Leonard Holmes at Judith Lee Johnson’s Studio of Dance in St. Petersburg, Florida, his hometown. “Lenny wisely made me—the only guy—feel at ease by letting me take class in a baseball cap and baggy shorts and T-shirt,” he says. “I could do double tours and entrechats six from the start, but the barre bored me. He taught me how to harness my energy.” Holmes, who had studied at School of American Ballet, gave Ulbricht a foundation in Balanchine style. Private lessons with Javier Dubrocq from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba followed. Ulbricht stood a little over five feet at the time, but he continued to grow and is now about 5'8". (Heidi’s short stature would eventually rule out a career in dance; she’s now married and has a degree in elementary education.)

 

Four years of summer study on scholarship at Chautauqua Summer Dance Program in upstate New York led to further Balanchine training under Patricia McBride, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, and Violette Verdy (her likening a plié to melting ice cream remains with him to this day). “Soon teachers who were visiting Chautauqua were offering me gigs,” he says. His freelance career began at age 14 with four Nutcrackers: Miami, St. Petersburg, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Everyone was suggesting he study at SAB, so in the spring of 1998, he flew to New York with his father for three days.

 

During that visit, he sneaked into Peter Boal’s advanced men’s class. Boal, now artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, says he spotted Ulbricht as a “trickster” but he was stunned by how advanced he already was: “I thought: What on earth can I teach this kid? Yet I found him open to any correction. He was a dream student.” SAB offered him a full scholarship, and Martins didn’t wait until he was an apprentice to cast him as the central jester in the last-act divertissements of his Sleeping Beauty. “I was dazzled by Daniel when I first saw him as a student at the school,” Martins says, “and my admiration only continues to grow.”

 

Ulbricht’s jester, with its brilliant à la seconde turns and uniformly high side-straddle hops, and his leader of the men’s regiment in Stars and Stripes at SAB’s spring 2000 workshop earned him a Dance Magazine “25 to Watch” in 2001. Former City Ballet principal Daniel Duell, who now runs The School of Ballet Chicago, was bowled over by Ulbricht in Stars, a role Duell had danced. “Everything Daniel did was unfailingly musical,” he says, “always on the center of the beat. And he regularly landed in soft plié—a perfect fifth.”

 

Casting after he joined NYCB’s corps in the 2002 winter season proved a feast-or-famine affair. One Saturday he made two major debuts: as the spunky Faun in the Fall section of Robbins’ The Four Seasons and that evening as the refined Gigue in Balanchine’s Mozartiana. “The Gigue is my hardest role,” he says. “Victor Castelli taught me I must always consider myself a delicate Dresden figurine, which was a stretch.” More often he was, say, a huntsman in Balanchine’s one-act version of Swan Lake. (“If you think it’s easy keeping a straight face wearing a feathered cap while standing between two swan girls, you try it some time.”) Opportunities were limited by his height and the difficulty of finding a regular partner. (His offstage partnership with principal Sterling Hyltin has cooled but they remain chums.)

 

Waiting his turn at repertoire occurs less often now that Martins is creating roles on him. As Mercutio, Ulbricht danced eight of the first 14 performances of the new Romeo + Juliet last year. He bristled with prankish virtuosity yet died with powerful simplicity. No one else has ever been assigned the midair twists yards above the stage in Friandises. Tiler Peck, his partner, remembers, “Danny would finish rehearsing some really demanding stuff with Peter and then have the energy left to partner me. I felt I could trust him completely.”

 

Not everyone appreciates the veneer of sunny showmanship in his performances. One reviewer said he looked like he was “auditioning for a Three Stooges routine” as the First Sailor in Robbins’ Fancy Free. “I know I enter the bar walking like Popeye,” Ulbricht says, “but that’s what Robbins wanted.” More newsworthy was his performance of the sailor’s solo with its sensational split landing after a double tour. No one else at NYCB or American Ballet Theatre really goes for it like Ulbricht. Most guys land on their heels, then slide to the floor, but he performs both actions so quickly he seems to have crash-landed on his crotch. “You have to do everything in a split second,” he says.

 

Now a principal at age 24, with the great Villella roles such as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and “Rubies” within his reach, he’s concentrating on toning down the showmanship. Villella, for instance, smiled but Ulbricht grins. Fortunately, the grin flickered only fitfully during his first two performances of Prodigal Son last winter. What drove audiences to demand multiple curtain calls was the power of his soaring Prodigal leap, his spiky pirouette of rage, and his embodiment of defeat and degradation. (“You can’t use your legs when you drag yourself off; it’s done with your elbows and shoulders.”)

 

Tarantella, another Villella specialty, has become Ulbricht’s signature ballet. When City Ballet visited London last March, he impressed veteran critic Clement Crisp with “his exact phrasing and his engaging freshness, as if inventing on the very moment the delights he shows us.” Before rehearsals for the spring season began, he took it on freelance gigs to San Juan, St. Petersburg (Russia), and Dallas. “Tarantella is going to buy me my apartment.”

 

And his burgeoning side career as a teacher will furnish it. He was invited to conduct his first class three years ago at the New York State Summer School for the Arts in Saratoga, and became so involved he lost his voice. Now that Damian Woetzel has stepped down as head of NYSSSA, Ulbricht and City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer will share its direction. Ever adept at networking, he has since taught at—and always been asked back by—Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, The Rock School, School of Ballet Chicago, and Indiana University.

 

The teenage boys in Ulbricht’s advanced men’s class at SAB, where he began teaching last winter, would be surprised to learn how their teacher regularly clowned around in company class. Now while he gives them a challenging barre, he prowls the classroom, singing the counts like a nursery rhyme while stressing the beat with finger snaps and open-palmed thwacks to his thighs that go off like pistol shots. Once, however, he did a barre wearing the head of a Nutcracker mouse. Inspired by the production manager’s backstage instructions to his stage crew (“Housewarmers cue—go”), Ulbricht would amuse—or annoy—nearby classmates by whispering, “Sous-sus cue—go!”

 

He tells students that thorough preparation conquers fear, and that the barre should be treated as a performance. Yet he can’t remain solemn for long.
“You’re introducing yourself every time you step onstage,” he says. “But if you stand like this”—the posture sags, the neck disappears, the shoulders grotesquely hunch up to the ears—“it’s like you’re saying”—in the squeaky voice of an adenoidal robot—“Hi, I’m Daniel.”

 

Then the posture straightens, the shoulders subside, the neck elegantly lengthens, and all caricature vanishes. In his normal light baritone, Ulbricht says, “Hello, I’m Daniel.” And now everyone grins.

 


Harris Green, a former features editor of
Dance Magazine, has written for The New York Times, Ballet Review, Dance Spirit, and Pointe.

 

Photo by Matthew Karas.

Ethan Stiefel and Amanda Schull in Columbia Pictures' Center Stage.
Photo by Barry Wetcher

Off-center Film

Center Stage
Columbia Pictures

Reviewed by Harris Green

If Columbia Pictures had been as conscientious as those producers of TV shows and comic books who regularly admonish their young audience, "Kids, don't try this at home," Center Stage would have had almost as many subtitles as a foreign movie. "Students, don't try this in class!" for instance, would have accompanied the scene in which one of its three heroines, Eva (Zoë Saldana), slouches in late for the barre at the "American Ballet Company" school in New York City. Chewing gum, wearing her hair loose, and in casual aerobics attire, she couldn't be more coolly insolent.

Eva is one of a trio of students—the others are her roommates Jody (San Francisco Ballet corps dancer Amanda Schull) and Maureen (Susan May Pratt)—who hope to be among the women chosen to join ABC's corps at the end of the term. The grinding routine of class that occupies so much of a dancer's life must have struck the writer, Carol Heikkinen, as woefully undramatic if she considered Eva's behavior necessary, much less believable. Even someone who had taken only a correspondence course in ballet wouldn't have entered a classroom in that manner.

Similar unreality pervades Heikkinen's notion that a student would defy a famous dancer-choreographer who is making a ballet on him. Charlie (American Ballet Theatre corps member Sascha Radetsky) has been honored with a starring role in a new piece for the school workshop, to be choreographed by ABC superstar Cooper (ABT superstar Ethan Stiefel). Because they are rivals for the affections of Jody, however, Charlie, who has a good tour en l'air, defiantly inserts virtuoso steps of his own devising, then stands back to see what Cooper can do. ("Guys, don't ever try this with a choreographer—particularly if you're only a student and he's a virtuoso.") Stiefel looks precise and buoyant partnering Julie Kent in pas de deux from MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet and Balanchine's Stars and Stripes, but after Cooper accepts Charlie's challenge, he has the rare opportunity to set his own boundaries. He promptly unleashes what may well be the most exhilarating fifteen seconds of male virtuosity ever captured on film.

Cooper's school ballet could have used a few boundaries to remain in the realm of workshop productions. Its actual choreographer, Broadway's Susan Stroman, wanted something along the lines of a Gene Kelly-style crossover extravaganza for MGM, and she succeeded all too well: Cooper, a last-minute replacement for an injured student, enters riding a Harley-Davidson Wideglide; scenery changes with an instant fluidity rare in student productions; Cooper and Jody make love onstage. ("Dance schools—don't even think about it!")

Director Nicholas Hytner gets acceptable performances from his fledgling actors, particularly Radetsky, who already has the appeal of a teen icon. Whenever possible, Hytner grounds Center Stage in something approaching reality, with documentary-style montages of sore feet and battered pointe shoes and some touristy shots of New York City, like a Circle Line boat ride around Manhattan. Eventually, though, Heikkinen's script will always inject a note of contrivance. The three roommates just happen to be the only women accepted by ABC. (Surprised?) Maureen, driven to bulimia by a domineering mother who must have her daughter become a ballerina, seems all too believable—until you realize that she's a native New Yorker and would be living at home, not in a dorm. Need I add that Eva, at the last minute, triumphantly steps into another workshop ballet—a sly parody, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon—without benefit of rehearsal? Can't you guess that Jody, hitherto an intermittent klutz, will conclude Cooper's ballet with a flurry of fouettés? (Unlike Stiefel in his sunburst of virtuosity, Schull is assisted in this feat by film editor Tariq Anwar.)

Reportedly, Hytner has long wished to make a film about the great impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. This movie, aimed like a bazooka at the teenagers who flocked to Titanic, is intended to convince Hollywood that ballet can be box office. Whether or not it makes port with the general public, Center Stage is going to strike anyone who knows dance and respects dancers as a leaky tub, indeed.

See feature story in April's Dance Magazine, pg. 64.

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