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CENTER STAGE

The Locations (Continued)

One especially imposing aspect of the film's main ballet studio set was the massive Translight that was placed on the soundstage outside the studio's wall of windows. The Translight is a giant photograph about 114 feet by 32 feet that shows a southwest perspective of New York City through the studio window and presents a view of the Hudson River and the mid-town skyline, including the Empire State Building.

"David Gropman built the studio set 12 feet off the ground, we all had to climb stairs or walk up a steep rampway to get on to it, so that looking out the window at the Translight view we maintain the perspective of being above the school building," says Simpson. "This is crucial. One image that Nick mentioned to me when we first discussed the film was that he wanted to see the dancers soaring over New York City."

Indeed, New York City is an important element in "Center Stage." "New York is definitely a character in the movie," Laurence Mark says. "It's important because the movie is about people from all over the country, all over the world, who want to be the best at what they do, and being the best at what they do requires that they come to New York, to the best ballet school in America. New York is the center of so many things, so it's no surprise to discover it's the capital of the dance world, too. From uptown at Lincoln Center to downtown in SoHo, we filmed on location so we could show off the city as it really is." This desire for realism also pervaded costume designer Ruth Myers' work.

"For the dance sequences, we stressed simplicity and worked as if we were making a black and white film. Color was used economically for dramatic effect. It's significant that at the end of Cooper's ballet, Jody is in red. Before that, she's wearing a classical costume she could wear to dance "Swan Lake," a traditional white tutu that's been deconstructed for our purposes because, during the ballet, Cooper literally peels it off her."

Realism was the keystone as well for Myers' costumes for the ballet dancers off stage. "We shopped for the clothes at the same stores where the dancers themselves shop. I'm happy to say many of the costumes for the film were indistinguishable from the clothing which the actors and dancers wore to work."

The rest of the material shot in the main studio included scenes that depicted boys and girls classes, rehearsals for the workshop ballets, and a confrontation between Eva and Juliette when Eva feels the instructor is being too hard on Jody.

Another important scene in the main studio had Jonathan Reeves, the head of the company and the school, greeting the new students at the beginning of the school year. Most of them, he knows, will not ultimately be accepted in the company and may not succeed in New York at all.

Peter Gallagher, who plays Jonathan, was fascinated with the character. "I've been to the ballet, but I didn't know much about it. Now I do. We had the greatest people in the profession working on the film and I was thrilled to be in their company. I can't remember when making a film has been more uplifting and exciting."

With scenes at the soundstage finished, the unit then returned to Lincoln Center to film various exteriors near the fountain on the Lincoln Center Plaza. After returning to the studio for various pickup shots, the unit filmed one last scene: Cooper giving Jody a ride on his motorbi

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