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BDC and Open Jar celebrate 20th anniversary of ‘Center Stage’ with master class

BDC's Center Stage Master Class.

Believe it or not, but this year is the 20th anniversary of iconic movie Center Stage, a film loved by dancers and non-dancers alike. Scenes are still memorable, lines are still quotable, and it’s no wonder there’s so much celebration around it. 

To celebrate, Broadway Dance Center (BDC) is hosting a Center Stage Master Class on Thursday, December 10, livestreamed from Open Jar Studios via Zoom. The two-hour class will feature the iconic “jazz class” scene, with choreographer Susan Stroman, James Gray and original cast members from the hit 2000 dance movie. Following the dancing, there will be a Q&A and a chance to chat with the team. 

Here, Dance Informa speaks with Stroman, along with The Open Jar Institute Founder Jeff Whiting and BDC’s April Cook, about the exciting workshop and what makes the Center Stage movie so memorable. 

Why do you think Center Stage has been such an iconic movie and one loved by so many people in the dance industry for the past 20 years?

Susan Stroman 

Susan Stroman. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Susan Stroman. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

“I think Center Stage is beloved because it was one of the first dance movies that depicted what it was really like to become a professional dancer in New York City. The ‘dance’ is the star of the movie. Much of the choreography is shot head to toe, so the camera takes the time to honor the body of the dancer. There are quick edits for energy, but the dance is not sacrificed. As for the story, the depictions of the characters are very accurate and reflect the real heart and soul of a dancer. And let’s not forget New York City – there are plenty of quintessential shots of the city where, to this day, you could visit and immediately spot a dancer.”

Jeff Whiting

“I think the film speaks to so many because it shows the ‘making of a dream’. Growing up in the theater and in dance, we all know there is a lot of work that goes behind finding your big break and some things you can’t control and some that you can control. This story speaks to every artist who wants their big break.”

What do dancers have to look forward to in BDC’s Center Stage Master Class?

Stroman

“One of the most recognizable scenes in the movie is the jazz class. The dancers who join the master class will be able to learn the exact choreography from that scene. The excellent instructor, James Gray, will break down the combination slowly and explain the original motivation behind many of the dance steps. The choreography will be demonstrated by five of the top Broadway dancers on the boards today.”

James Gray.
James Gray.

Whiting

“Participants will have a chance to meet the brilliant Susan Stroman, who created the dance known around the world. They’ll have a chance to learn about how she created the movement, the filming process, and the impact it had on her and her career. Additionally, a meet-and-greet with other cast from the film. Plus, the chance to learn the combination from the film. Yes, many people already know it, but there are shots that are close up, and no one really knows the entire dance. For the first time ever, the entire number will be revealed!”

What level is recommended for this workshop?

Stroman

“To fully do the jazz class combination, an advanced level is needed. However, the combination can also be danced in various ways. So if you are a beginner, you will also be able to take part in the combination and do what you can. The combination, although highly technical, has many easy dance steps peppered throughout. People at all levels will enjoy their time in the class.”

Sascha Radetsky.
Sascha Radetsky.

What sorts of questions would you love to see come up during the Q&A portion of the class?

Stroman

“I am sure there will be questions about what the impetus was to choreograph certain steps in the routine. And I imagine there will be technical questions such as weight distribution, amount of turns and of course about overall style. I am looking forward to answering questions beyond the jazz class. There are several major choreographed sections of the movie that I adore and hope to expound on. I always look forward to hearing which moments from Center Stage are their favorites.”

Whiting

“I think the making of the film is fascinating. Questions about how the dance was filmed, particularly given that it’s such a physically demanding dance. How many times could it be repeated for the cameras without exhausting the cast?”

What else should dancers expect from the Center Stage Master Class?

Stroman

Priscilla Lopez.
Priscilla Lopez.

“They can expect to have a good time! The Stevie Wonder song, ‘Higher Ground’, covered by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, would make anyone break into dance! The expert team that will be in front of them, plus cast members from the original movie, will bring great insight into the creation of this iconic movie.”

Whiting

“The chance to connect with a huge international community through this film and this choreography. We’re going to ask everyone to film themselves doing the dance, and we’ll be putting together a mash-up of everyone who participated in the dance so we all dance together.”

Who will be leading and demonstrating in the class?

April Cook

Debra Monk.
Debra Monk.

“We’ve got an incredible lineup of talent for this event! James Gray will teach Susan Stroman’s fantastic choreography from the movie, while Ms. Stroman gives notes. Some of Broadway’s finest will demonstrate, including Clyde Alves (The Music Man, Oklahoma!, Wicked, On The Town), Joshua Buscher (Kinky Boots, Big Fish, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, West Side Story), Afra Hines (Hadestown, In the Heights, Shuffle Along, Hamilton), Robyn Hurder (Moulin Rouge, The Musical!, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Grease, Chicago) and Ahmad Simmons (West Side Story, Hadestown, Carousel, Cats). 

During the talkback, Susan and James will be joined by Center Stage cast members Priscilla Lopez, Sascha Radetsky and Debra Monk!”

Broadway Dance Center’s Center Stage Master Class will be held on Thursday, December 10, from 1-3pm EST, via Zoom. To register, head to www.broadwaydancecenter.com/master-class/center-stage-master-class.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa. 

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