Center Stage

Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer - City
Theatrical Trailer - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 5.1 (1:42)
Audio Commentary - Nicholas Hytner (Director)
Featurette - The Making Of Center Stage
Featurette - Extended Dance Sequences (3)
Deleted Scenes (2)
Music Video - I Wanna Be With You Mandy Moore
Biographies - Cast and Crew
Year Released 2000
Running Time 111:04 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (66:29)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Nicholas Hytner
Columbia Pictures
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Starring Amanda Schull
Zoe Saldana
Susan May Pratt
Peter Gallagher
Donna Murphy
Ethan Stiefel 
Case Soft Brackley-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music George Fenton

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes, partly during credits

Plot Synopsis

    Sometimes when I look at the DVD allocation lists here at Michael D's, I sit in moderate bewilderment as to why I have selected or been landed with certain titles that end up in my pile. I have to confess that Centre Stage (or since it is an American film Center Stage as it appears on so many menus) was one of those titles. After all, close reading of some of my reviews for the site would clearly indicate that I am no great devotee of dance and this is a film that is solidly about nothing more than the artform known as ballet. So quite why the heck I stuck my hand up for this one, I still have no idea!

    Mind you, having now seen the film thrice, I have to confess that I am rather glad that I did somehow land this for review. Whilst I am certainly not going to proclaim it one of those hidden gems we occasionally come across, and it certainly is not a classic film, there simply is something about the film that is actually quite engrossing.

    And yet on the face of it, I could not imagine anything that sounds quite so boring as the synopsis of the film! The plot is quite simple really. Aspiring ballet students gather at various places around the city of New York for auditions to join the American Ballet Academy (a mythical organization albeit one based very largely on the elite ballet schools that are found in New York). From this gathering are selected twelve of the very best to join the Academy and thus start on the next path of their dream - to be selected to the American Ballet Company (again mythical but very much based upon the ballet companies of New York). And so we basically follow the dreams of freshies Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull), Eva Rodriguez (Zoe Saldana) and others as they join the returning students such as Maureen Cummings (Susan May Pratt) vying under the eagle-eyed attention of the director of the Academy Jonathon Reeves (Peter Gallagher) and teachers like Juliette Simone (Donna Murphy) for places in the workshop, the most important stage upon which the next step of their dream can be realized. For in order to reach their dream, they must make a name for themselves in one of the most competitive arts in the world. Very few have the necessary talent or indeed even the right body, as well as sheer bloody mindedness, to reach the highest echelon in this profession and we get to see how many fall by the wayside, or else lower their expectations to meet their perceived shortcomings as far as the very elite ballet companies are concerned.

    Not exactly the greatest sounding story but the execution here is superb. Apart from Peter Gallagher, none here are exactly known names in film. There is good reason for this - dance ability was almost essential for casting in this film, and so few non-dancers were cast and those that were, such as Susan May Pratt, actually did have dance experience in earlier training. The reason why dance experience was so necessary is obvious - so much of the film involves dance of some sort. However, devotees of the dance and especially ballet will probably recognize quite a few names here, perhaps none more so than Ethan Stiefel, one of the great male dancers of the current generation apparently (sorry, but my knowledge in this area is not great, but he certainly demonstrates plenty of ability during the film). Even ballet devotees may not recognize the lead actress here, but at the time of the making of the film Amanda Schull was an apprentice (or whatever the ballet equivalent is) at the San Francisco Ballet. This is quite prevalent during the film - many of the supporting cast and extras were young dancers with the various ballet companies in New York. Yet despite the lack of pure acting pedigrees, many of these dancers did an excellent job in really just being representations of themselves on screen.

    The film is perhaps best characterized by some rather good direction from Nicholas Hytner, who certainly seemed to have a deft hand at bringing to film the trials and tribulations of being an aspiring dancer at an elite level. Certainly artistic licence has been taken at times - Eva would not have gotten away with as much as she did in real life - but these really are only minor issues amongst a rather well-handled thread showing just how tough it is to succeed at the highest level in ballet.

    If you have a keen interest in ballet or even just top drawer dance of any kind (for to succeed at the highest level in any form of dance probably requires the same sort of commitment and luck), then this is certainly a DVD that you should go out and obtain immediately. Amongst movies about dance, I have always had a rather high regard for Strictly Ballroom. In many ways, Centre Stage has supplanted that film and in just so many ways I don't exactly know why. I certainly cannot point to specific items that stand out to me as reasons for finding much interest here, but that is certainly what I found here. Not so much entertainment but rather interest. Well worth having a gander at this DVD, and enjoying some terrific dance.

Transfer Quality


    It has been a bit of a while since I have checked out a contemporary film from Columbia TriStar, and it is a pleasure to return to one. Their sheer consistency in quality remains unexcelled except perhaps by one other distributor. The only result is that it makes the review quite short as there is little here to complain about!

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Since this is an anamorphically filmed movie, we get to see the usual benefits of such a process: a nicely sharp and detailed transfer, generally very clear with a very nice look to it. The only area that might be considered slightly disappointing is that a few of the night-time scenes could perhaps have displayed slightly better shadow detail, but even that would be really being super-critical. Internal shots of the nightclub for instance were as good as could be expected, providing an effective counter argument if you like. There was perhaps the ultimate degree of clarity missing here, but this does not suggest that there were significant grain problems either (as there were not any). There is no indication of low level noise problems in the transfer. Overall, a very good looking transfer indeed.

    Colours are very well rendered throughout and have a high degree of vibrancy as well as naturalness to them. Skin tones seemed especially well-handled and there is a nice depth to the blacks and whites - rather essential since it was a stated intention of the director to highlight the monochromatic nature of the Academy. Watching the film the second time through, it became quite evident that there was a nice degree of subtlety to the black tones as well, so the girls leotards for instance had a degree of individual distinctiveness to them. Even the nightclub scenes were very well handled with oodles of vibrancy and flashiness without a hint of oversaturation at all. Indeed, at no time did any of the brighter colours provide any problems in this regard. There is also no evidence of colour bleed in the transfer at all.

    First time through, I could barely find anything wrong with the transfer other than some extremely trivial instances of artefacts. The second time through I watched even more like a hawk and managed to find very little more than the same relatively trivial instances of artefacts. This is a well-mastered DVD! There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Being really really picky you could pick up on a couple of rather trivial instances of barely noticeable aliasing and one rather trivial instance of moiré artefacting early on in the film. By far the worst problem were the film artefacts and even then they were not that much of an issue. Still, it puzzles me why such a recent film should have so relatively many black marks on the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 66:29, which was right after a scene change. This is by far the worst aspect of the DVD as it is not at all brilliant - quite noticeable indeed. I would have thought that there were plenty of other places where the layer change could have been more effectively hidden.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and an Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to all but the German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    The dialogue and music comes up well in the soundtrack and are easy to understand. There is nothing in the way of audio sync problems here at all.

    The original music comes from George Fenton and surprisingly for a film so heavily based on dance (which obviously is very much aided by music) is rather understated stuff. But it certainly is effectively understated as listening to the Isolated Music Score clearly shows significant chunks where there is no background music and in many ways it underscores the nature of the Academy - an almost single-minded pursuit of a goal. When needed though, there is plenty of music to support the dance. Overall, a rather different soundtrack to that which I was expecting.

    This is not an overly impressive soundtrack in many ways, but that again suits the style of film quite well indeed. There is not a huge amount of rear channel activity apart from a few obvious scenes (for example, the lobby party), so when it does kick in it is almost quietly effective! The bass channel also does not go overboard in the support department and that is pleasing as to some extent I was expecting and dreading a bass-heavy effort. Quiet understatement is perhaps the key here with enough activity to bump the film along where required. A nicely open sounding effort that conveys the essential dialogue and basic music well indeed, without any defects of any kind.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Another reasonable effort from Columbia TriStar but one that at times left me a little flat. I really felt that this should have been somewhat more extensive at times, and I cannot help but feel that the mere inclusion of an audio commentary does not automatically make a collection enough to warrant the Collector's Edition moniker.


    Some audio enhancement is about all that is noteworthy here - apart from the Americanized spelling of Center which I really, really object to (especially after being corrected on the slick!).

Dolby Digital Trailer - City


Theatrical Trailer (1:42)

    An okay type of effort presented in a Full Frame format with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and not 16x9 enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Nicholas Hytner (Director)

    Now this is a bit of a puzzler. Blessed with plenty of extended silence, he has a rather flattish sounding voice that really is quite tiring to listen to and he ends up sort of trailing off what he is saying without finishing it at times. In other words, the sort of stuff that usually guarantees that I turn the thing off in ten minutes and start ranting about the fact that audio commentaries are almost as poxy as DVD-ROM content. Yet I rather unusually listened to the whole thing and found it quite interesting. Rarely discussing much of what is happening on screen, it is more of a background information type effort that discusses a lot of the reasons behind the way the film was done and how certain things were achieved. Since I can give it grudging praise, that probably ranks it amongst the very top percentile of commentaries!

Featurette - The Making Of Centre Stage (5:59)

    A very typical example of the 6 minute EPK rubbish that gets made for films these days. Sort of an extended trailer with minor cast and crew interviews included. Hardly essential stuff and certainly no substitute for a decent and proper 30 minute making-of featurette. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Extended Dance Sequences (3)

    Basically these are the full dance versions of three sequences from the film that have been edited in the final film:     Of decent enough quality, they are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Probably more of interest to dance completists than the general film watcher.

Deleted Scenes (2)

    Hardly the most essential of items either, these two sequences are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They comprise Cooper at Rehearsal (1:08) and Charlie Shows His Stuff (1:38), and basically just extend existing scenes from the film.

Music Video - I Wanna Be With You Mandy Moore (4:19)

    An okay sort of music video that is presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It suffers a little from aliasing. Not the most exhilarating of performances.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    A somewhat anaemic effort that does not even mention the main talent in the film (namely the real dancers Amanda Schull, Ethan Stiefel and company). I would rather have had something about these performers than some of the other extras included here, as I am sadly lacking in knowledge of them and would have appreciated being enlightened.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    The only differences between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases appears to be the lack of a production notes booklet and a bonus trailer of Dance With Me on the Region 4 release. Since these would hardly be considered essentials, there would appear to be no real preference between the versions.


    Centre Stage is a wonderful film, except I don't really know why other than the fact that I enjoyed watching it three times in a row, and it is blessed with an excellent DVD transfer. I have some qualms about the quality of the extras package, but that in broad terms would be my only real complaint about the whole package. If you have any interest at all in any form of dance, this is an essential purchase. For the rest of us, there is certainly enough of interest here to warrant at least a rental of the DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th March, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL