Center Stage

Rated 4.0 In his first two films, The Madness of King George and The Crucible, director Nicholas Hytner artfully brought material from the stage to the screen; in Center Stage he accomplishes the same with ballet. Carol Heikkinen’s script isn’t often much to work with, but the cast is game (many of the principals dancers, rather than actors), and Hytner is a sharp, shrewd stylist, capable of alluding to whole sidestories in a single shot. The story concerns tensions, professional and sexual, between high-strung students and instructors at a prestigious NYC ballet academy. Susan Platt (the scheming “best friend” in Drive Me Crazy) offers an affecting performance as a lonely stage-mom-driven prodigy so insulated she’s never learned to tell a joke, but many of the film’s greatest joys lie in the dancing, including a sly mano-a-mano “cutting” contest between the rivals (Evan Steifel and Sascha Radetsky) for the affections of our heroine (Amanda Schull), and a sizzling number at a downtown jazz studio that ranks as the sexiest dance sequence to reach the screen since Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz.