As “Center Stage” turns 20, Amanda Schull reflects on the dance film of a generation



Fsince the moment he made his debut in 2000, Center stage reigned supreme as the ultimate pajama movie. Now, two decades later … it still is.

Tuesday, Center stage celebrates 20 years as a cult classic. Critics trashed the film when it was first released, but everything they hated seemed to have the opposite effect on teens across the country, who used it. After all, how could a self-respecting tween not gasp when Jody Sawyer, the infamous “bad-footed” ingenue, stared lustfully in her eyes at ballet-bad-boy Cooper Nielson shake her Adonis-level ass for “The Way You Make Me Feel” in the most clothes tempting – gray sweatpants? What a teenager does not have I love watching Jody self-actualize and say to this hot piece of dancer meat, “Cooper, you’re an amazing dancer and you’re a great choreographer, but as a boyfriend you’re a bit of a sucker?” And this effortless Jody moment commais her hair in a bun — on stage (!) on the back of Cooper’s motorcycle (!!!)? Even as I re-watched the film as a jaded adult, I have to admit that I felt my breath catch in my throat.

Even now, 20 years and several roles later, Amanda Schull knows she will likely never escape her first onscreen role. “No one ever knows my name by that,” Schull told The Daily Beast. “Or they know Jody’s name. But they say, ‘You’re the daughter of Center stage! “

Director Nicholas Hytner knew he wanted a dancer to play Jody. One day, while Schull was dancing with the San Francisco Ballet Company, his group was told that a Hollywood producer would watch him. (It turned out to be a casting director.) When Schull heard that someone would be looking for a movie in the audience, she decided, in the parlance of the movie, to “settle for dance shit “.

” I just give the at this repeat, ”said Schull. “I didn’t know what they were casting for. I didn’t know what the role was, but I was going to get it. She got the script and recorded the sides on camera for the producers the next day, beetroot between rehearsals. Then she flew to Los Angeles to meet the producers. But then, when they asked him to fly to New York for a screen test, Schull ran into far too big a problem.

“I said, I’m cleaning my apartment and I really need, I really need… to get the deposit money back,” Schull said. “So if we could do this screen test at another time that would be great.”

Schull finished cleaning the apartment and left for Hawaii, where his family is from. Then she got another call from the producers. “They’re like, aren’t you, you’re done cleaning your apartment now?” Can you come and do this screen test? Schull recalled. About a week later, she got the job and got her full deposit back.

Thinking back to the production, Schull noted the great camaraderie on set. Many performers, including Ethan Stiefel, who plays Cooper, and Sascha Radetsky, who plays Charlie, were real dancers who had known each other for quite some time. Some of the main actors got together almost every weekend to cook dinner together and hang out. On one occasion, Hytner had rented a beach house in the Hamptons – and Zoe Saldana’s mother turned some of the actors away.

Yet there was some awkward moments on set, like, say, the fact that Stiefel’s first day of filming turned out to be Cooper’s love scene with Jody. When asked if breaking the ice with a love scene was intimidating, Schull blurted out a categorical: “Uh, Yes! “

A little source of comfort for Schull was that she had already been on set for a few weeks by the time Stiefel showed up to film her roles. “It was kind of like I had at least something on him,” she said. “He was this great fantasy dancer and was so confident in so many other ways. I felt like I knew the plateau a little better than he did … But it was also about 1 million degrees in that loft.

Picture this: Brooklyn in the summer. An attic. No open windows. Two people trying to be sexy.

“We were both sweaty,” Schull said. “I was wearing all my ballet clothes, like a leotard and tights with jeans and an angora sweater and all that. So, uh, that was nice toast.

But if there’s one streak that everyone remembers Center stage, it’s this latest performance from the American Ballet Academy’s workshop – this real-life-ripped Cooper Nielson masterpiece that begins with Jody dancing in a fictional ballet class and ends with her dancing there. tune in one of the sexiest chorus lines the dance world has ever seen. Filming this scene took 12 to 14 hour days, during which the dancers struggled to stay warm enough to crush their roles.

“It was tiring,” Schull said. “It was really, really tiring. But it was also something that we had all been repeating for a while and that we were finally going to be able to show the team … a lot of them were parents and so a lot of them probably had kids dancing. anyway. And so they were super encouraging.

“It could have been horribly grueling, but it was actually really grueling and fun because everyone was kinda in the same boat,” Schull added. “It was just a very [environment] and kind of like the perfect way to be able to film that. “

A bright spot? She managed to keep the tear-off tutu that Cooper rips off as Jody twirls around. “I remember bragging about it to Ethan … and he was like, ‘This is going to be useful,'” said Schull. She never bothered to put it back on, especially “because it’s a million shots put together … Like, if I ever had to wear this for a costume, while I put it on, the party would be. over, you know? ”(Yet since we all only have free time, there might not be a day like the present to try!)

When Center stage wrapped up for the first time, Schull said she kept in touch with fellow dancers most often, especially Radetsky, who was in Toronto during filming 12 monkeys. Recently, however, she has also reconnected with Zoe Saldana and Susan May Pratt, who played Jody, Eva and Maureen’s roommates. They started sending videos back and forth.

“We all started texting and sharing photos and videos of our kids,” Schull said. Saldana has three sons, while Pratt has a son and a daughter. Schull, meanwhile, has a newborn baby. “I think part of that is because we know it’s approaching the 20th anniversary, and we were all getting nostalgic and checking in,” Schull said. “And we all have kids now.”

For a moment, Schull had felt that perhaps his lack of prior experience was what made the memories of this production so rosy. Talking with Saldana and Pratt actually validated the experience somewhat. “We all share our stories, Zoe just said great things about how this is one of her most favorite experiences,” Schull said. “And she’s had some pretty amazing experiences since then.”

So it’s no wonder that even now it doesn’t bother Schull much when a fan calls her “the daughter of Center of the stage.”She always feels emotional when someone tells her that the movie inspired them to start dancing or, in the case of some male fans, that showing the movie to their parents helped them understand why their son wanted to dance in. first place. “Twenty years later I’m going to take it,” Schull said with a laugh. “I’ll be ‘the girl’.”


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