TV Review: Center Stage: Turn It Up

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There's something innately exciting about a competition in which young, talented, attractive performers compete for a few scarce openings in a prestigious arts academy. Or at least there should be.

Oxygen's "Center Stage: Turn It Up" stomps on those dramatic moments until they become a mush of off-putting cliches that even fancy footwork can't save.

The movie, which goes straight to DVD in January, tries to take advantage of the reputation of "Center Stage," a 2000 film that follows a dozen young women -- three in particular -- after they are admitted to the prestigious, fictitious American Ballet Academy. Reprising their peripheral roles are Peter Gallagher as the artistic director and Ethan Stiefel as a teacher.

In this predictable tale of pas de deux perseverance, Rachele Smith plays self-taught Kate Parker, a girl from Detroit with fire, passion, attitude and a blinding-white smile. She makes her way to the academy in New York only to be narrowly rejected during the audition. Conveniently, she finds a job almost immediately as a dancer and waitress in a club nearby.

Instead of choosing Kate, the academy went with Suzanne Von Stroh (Sarah Jayne Jensen), a smooth ballerina whose father just happens to be a major donor. Kate and Suzanne soon form two points of a love triangle, the hypotenuse of which is played by Kenny Wormald, who loves Kate but can't afford to alienate Suzanne.

The sequel meets all the technical requirements of a movie, though it is in reality a showcase for the considerable dancing prowess of its young stars, Smith in particular. Director Steven Jacobson seems so intent on covering the lively choreography -- equal parts breakdance and ballet -- that he gives short shrift to the acting, which is universally flat and occasionally robotic.

Seriously, if you want to see dancers with their hearts in the competition, try "Dancing With the Stars." An added bonus: It's hard to guess how that show will end.
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