Watching dancers on TV or in films is one thing, yet viewers don’t always realize what training went into the dancers’ careers and the performances.
Below find five shows and movies (and a bonus film) depicting the struggles for anyone in the performing arts. They demonstrate fun as well as the stress of classes and even getting into performing-arts schools or ballet companies in the first place
Bunheads (Freeform, TV-PG)
After moving to a small town with her new husband, Las Vegas showgirl Michelle (Sutton Foster) suddenly finds herself alone and wondering what to do with her life.
A former Broadway dancer, she joins her mother-in-law’s dance studio to teach ballet. The high-school students discover a new style with Michelle, who brings a bit of pizzazz to her classes.
The main young co-stars each have personal dilemmas and family dramas they must face. The dance classes are their ultimate escape from the drudgery of life’s problems.
As she becomes more comfortable with the students, Michelle bonds with the girls, and vice versa.
What makes this show as enjoyable as it is are the dances that are incorporated into the episodes. So not only do viewers get the teen drama, they are also treated to some great and inventive dances.
Center Stage (2000, PG)
The fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York City is a prestigious school, so just getting in is a challenge. Once accepted, the real work begins.
This teen drama looks at the struggles facing a group of new students as they learn not only their craft, but also how to deal with the stresses in their personal lives, plus they have the additional struggle of keeping up in order not to be dismissed from the ABA.
Talk about adding stress to a young life. Their dreams are riding on this. Will they be able to cope with everything and make it in this competitive world of dance?
Zoe Saldana and Amanda Schull made their film debuts in this movie, which depicts budding dancers from a variety of backgrounds. Who will survive the experience?
Center Stage: Turn it Up (2008, PG-13) and Center Stage: On Pointe (2016, PG)
Center Stage sparked interest for young viewers and inspired two sequels. While some of the cast returns, there are new dancers on the scene.
Whether they are learning ballet or more contemporary dance, the stress put on the students is matched by their personal problems.
The competitive nature of their craft comes into play as they compete for spots in the school and the dances.
As with other shows, combining the drama with the dances is the icing on the cake. Some people are attracted to these Center Stage shows for the drama and others for the performances.
Save the Last Dance (2001, PG-13)
Julia Stiles stars as Sara, a budding ballerina whose main desire is to get into Julliard.
Upon the death of her mother, Sara moves to Chicago to live with her estranged father in the South Side. This environment is foreign to her, yet she manages to get through the days, with the grief of her mother constantly bringing up feelings of sadness and guilt.
Sara is befriended by Chenille (Kerry Washington in one of her first big roles). She soon also becomes friends with Chenille’s brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) -- a relationship that leads to tension at the school.
Derek teaches Sara how to dance his way, while she infuses her ballet training into his style.
They work together to get Sara ready for the next Julliard auditions. Sara’s audition dance is perhaps the best scene in the film.
Embedded below, it represents the culmination of her hard work and determination to overcome the adversity she experienced after her whole world got turned upside down.
Bonus Film: Next Level
YouTuber Lauren Orlando, Dance Moms star Chloe Lukasiak (Center Stage: On Pointe), Emily Skinner (Andi Mack), dancer William Simmons (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) and Chloe East (The Fabelmans) star in this 2019 musical comedy-drama set at a competitive performing-arts academy.
Family Theater Productions was one of the production partners.
There's no ballet, but the kids show off their skills at singing and hip-hop dancing, while negotiating a summer of intrigue, rivalries and romance.
Francine Brokaw is a longtime journalist, covering entertainment, product reviews and travel, and is the host of Beyond the Red Carpet on Village Television and YouTube.
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