Behind the scenes of Center Stage 3
The third and latest installment of the Center Stage franchise is sure to win the hearts of dancers everywhere. Not to mention that our favorite characters, Charlie and Cooper, are back in the mix! But this time around, the film, titled Center Stage: Dance Camp, will star stunning Denver native Barton Cowperthwaite.
Before the movie contract, Cowperthwaite’s resume was already very impressive. With a direct quote from Lar Lubovitch about how Cowperthwaite’s movements “sing”, I think it’s safe to say this young, humble heartthrob is in a league all on his own. Here, Dance Informa chats with Cowperthwaite about the movie, getting to know his fellow castmates and his future career plans.
Tell me a bit about your dance background.
“I am a proud native of Denver, Colorado. I started with hip hop around 12 years old. Then got into tap and jazz. Ballet and modern followed shortly after. I attended Denver School of the Arts and The Academy of Colorado Ballet during my high school years and got my BFA in Dance from The University of Arizona. I have a very diverse dance background and am eternally grateful to the many teachers and mentors who have kindly shared their wisdom over the years.”
How does it feel to be cast as Damon in the new Center Stage installment, Center Stage: Dance Camp?
“It feels great! It’s an honor to be a part of something that many people in our community hold dear. To follow in Sascha, Ethan, and Kenny’s footsteps is a huge privilege for me.”
What are some of your most fond memories about watching the first Center Stage?
“I actually hadn’t seen the first one until more recently. I finally laid my eyes on the original about a year ago, shortly after I had moved to New York. My friends were aghast every time I mentioned that I hadn’t seen it. I finally watched it and joked with friends that I had emerged from the rock I had been living under. I loved the dance battle between Charlie and Cooper. They embodied the playful competition we need to improve in our field.”
Tell me about your character in Center Stage: Dance Camp and how he is similar or different from you.
“Damon is a young man chasing his dream. In classical ballet, you must train very hard. Often times, these camps feel like your only chance to get your pointed foot in the door of the dance world. Damon is a hard worker but very attached to his rigid ballet training. He is struggling to discover the freedom in dance. He must find it to make his dreams a reality.
I relate to Damon on many levels and differ in others. I appreciate his hard work and dedication. He is someone who respects dance to the core. But his exposure has been limited to ballet. I, on the other hand, grew up dancing very free. Improvisation and contemporary are very familiar to me. Playing a character who struggles to understand these forms has been an interesting new challenge.”
How is this version of Center Stage going to be different from the former two?
“This Center Stage is going to bring some more modern and contemporary movement into the mix. The returning cast members, the fresh bodies and the vision of Director X will bring Center Stage to life in an awesome and exciting new way.”
How has the filming process been so far? How is it working with your fellow castmates?
“I’ve had a blast on set so far. Everyone is hard-working and takes great care to make sure that they are always putting their best foot forward. All of the returning cast members have been very kind and inviting. Kenny, Sascha and Ethan on the same set made for some seriously cool energy. I’ve become such a big fan of working under Director X. He knows what he wants and gets it done firmly, effectively, and usually with smile.”
What are some of the challenges you face when dancing for screen, instead of stage?
“Dancing for the camera is like a game of chess, against yourself. It’s constant stop and go, shot changes, and different scenes can happen in between each dance take. It takes meticulous focus to stay warm at the right times and to rest when you get the brief opportunities. A stage performance is more lineal. You can follow your routine, get warm at a certain time, feel the space, get in costume, and you’ll be ready to hit your energetic pinnacle when performance time comes.”
How have your past experiences prepared you for this specific role in Center Stage: Dance Camp?
“As an actor, I’m lucky that I can draw on my own life experiences of the blood, sweat and bruises it takes to become a professional in this field. Damon’s character is at a stage of transition. The overwhelming desire to attain his goal is a very real thing. As dancers, we experience high pressure situations like these summer camps very often.”
What do you think audiences will think of Center Stage: Dance Camp?
“I think audiences will really enjoy the film. It has a lot to offer in many different ways. I know the dance community will appreciate the original cast members coming back. There’s some very fun and exciting dance in the film, and I think audiences will enjoy all of the new characters as well. I know that Director X will put this film together in a way that no one will be able to anticipate.”
Who are your biggest dance idols?
“Lately, Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev have been taking up a great portion of my YouTube searches. As are Stephen McRae and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. I idolize people who advance the art form, who chose to speak through their art using the tools they’ve developed through decades of hard work. I must give a major shout out to Ken Ludden, artistic director of The Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet. He took me under his wing recently. I firmly believe that his lessons have a large part to play in why I’ve been offered this privileged position.”
What does a typical day in the life of Barton Cowperthwaite look like?
“As a freelance dancer living in NYC, every day can bring something different. I’ve implemented some routine patterns that make sanity a bit more feasible. In the mornings, after my shower, I meditate for 10-15 minutes. Meditation isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found that it keeps me more open during my busy and ever-changing days. Then I make breakfast, usually eggs with avocado and/or sausage. I make sure to pack whatever necessities I will require for my days of class/rehearsals/auditions/photo shoots. Mostly, I pack a lot of food. Then I take care of whatever business needs to be taken care of. In the evenings, I usually meet with friends for some fun or go home and cook dinner for myself. I finish off my days by rolling out and stretching, especially when dance is in full swing.”
What are your future career plans?
“I’ve always had a hard time planning my career. People, jobs and opportunities come and go at the most unexpected times, and ‘planning’ (in a literal sense), to me, gets in the way of letting that flow take its course. What I can say is that I plan on working my hardest. I plan on embodying my artistic choices to make statements that affect the way people see the world. I plan to continue my growth as an artist and as a human and know that that can only be done through hard work. A good friend of mine once said, ‘We don’t do this for fun, but we sure have fun doing it.’”
What is some advice for young dancers wanting to pursue a career in acting/dancing on film?
“To all of the wonderful aspiring young artists, your work as an artist and a dancer/actor is never done. You are always growing in ways you didn’t know existed. Stay humble; the more you keep your eyes and ears open, the more you will learn. Knowledge is power; the more you know about the history of dance, acting, technique, singing, et cetera, the more likely it is you will find bits of success. I have found that these three simple principles will elevate your level of professionalism: Be nice, communicate, and be on time! Also… read books!”
Read more and see updates about Barton Cowperthwaite at www.bartonc.com.
By Allison Gupton of Dance Informa.