'Center Stage: On Pointe': TV Review

Courtesy of Lifetime
Best decline the invitation to this dance.
6/25/2016

The third time's not the charm in Lifetime's perfunctory musical sequel.

To the great movie trilogies of the world (to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings; to Major League and Maniac Cop) we can now add the Center Stage series. The first of these unerringly silly musical melodramas, released in 2000, followed a group of young dancers plié-ing, backstabbing, and learning life lessons while attending the fictitious American Ballet Academy (ABA) in New York City. It was Fame for the 21st century: Few of these performers could truly act, all of them could mostly strut, and only one of them (Zoë Saldana) would go on to any lasting cinematic fame, for better (Guardians of the Galaxy) or worse (the much-derided Nina Simone biopic).

A direct-to-TV sequel, Center Stage: Turn It Up, followed in 2008, repeating the formula on a much lower budget with comparatively lesser talents. One of the supporting characters in Turn It Up, Nicole Munoz's Bella Parker (who's so green she can't even correctly pronounce "pas de deux"), is the star of this Lifetime-produced second sequel, which somehow manages to further diminish the already meager returns despite the presence of almost every Center Stage alumnus. (Saldana is unsurprisingly absent; she does, after all, have some Avatar sequels to shoot.)

Just about everyone else is here though, beginning with American Ballet Academy head honcho Jonathan Reeves (Peter Gallagher), tasked with incorporating modern dance into his company's classical repertoire because of sparse audience attendance. He and his colleagues, including original Center Stage-ers Cooper (Ethan Stiefel) and Charlie (Sascha Radetsky), decide to hold a boot camp at ABA's forest retreat — the better to mask the fact that this ostensible New York story was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bella is among the aspiring hoofers picked for the intensive six-week training session, which is overseen by a demanding former ballerina (Sarah-Jane Redmond, channeling her demonic Lucy Butler character from the 1990s TV series Millennium) who takes every chance to scoff at these arabesque-ing millennials. There's the blonde (Maude Green) with the shady past. There's the bad boy (Kyle Toy) who thinks he's God's gift to the art form. And there's the cute guy, Damon (Barton Cowperthwaite), who becomes Bella's willing dance partner as well as her semi-reluctant love interest.

The drama proceeds in commercial-break-friendly fits and starts, and mainly revolves around Bella trying to hide her identity as the sister of Turn It Up protagonist Kate Parker (Rachele Brooke Smith, who makes a closing-act cameo) so she won't be accused of nepotism. There are several dance sequences, all of them poorly staged and often inexplicably photographed in slow-motion. Bella and Damon even have an inspirational, oft-repeated mantra ("Feel in the blanks") that would make Tony Robbins gag. By the time the climactic, Rihanna-scored musical number arrives, your attention will have long since waltzed off.

Cast: Nicole Muñoz, Barton Cowperthwaite, Kenny Wormald, Maude Green, Thomas L. Colford, Sarah-Jane Redmond, Peter Gallagher, Sascha Radetsky, Ethan Stiefel, Rachele Brooke Smith
Director: Director X.
Producers: Greg Malcolm, Vicki Sotheran
Editor: Charles Robichaud
Premieres: Saturday, June 25 (Lifetime)

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