Center Stage: A fable for life change
I won't claim that Center Stage is a great movie (the reviews
were mixed), but I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes realism and
the fable of career transition.
Jodie Sawyer, the heroine, has "bad feet" and poor
"turnout." These flaws are grounded in her body
structure and she can't do much to change them. Still, her
enthusiasm gets her accepted into a prestigious ballet school.
Her good looks probably don't hurt either
From the beginning, Jodie's status is marginal. In every
class, she hears, "Work on turnout, Jodie." The
director encourages her to think of other careers.
Jodie does get some support from her classmates. But what
transforms her career comes from her own willingness to take
risks and seek out what Martha Beck calls her own North
In what I see as a moment of truth, Jodie defies school policy
to take a jazz class. She wonders aloud why dancing feels
so good here and so bad in the ballet company. And she begins
to listen to herself, not her teachers, not even the "bad
boy" superstar who is her romantic hero.
Some critics compare the ending to a fairy tale. Jodie wins
the lead in an avant-garde ballet and, subsequently, an invitation
to join a new modern dance company.
She tells the head of the ballet school she doesn't want
to know if she would be selected for the elite ballet company.
She will never be more than a member of the corps if she stays
here. She needs to find a climate where she can grow.
Jodie's whole life has been geared to the purity of classical
ballet. For some members of the ballet world, the new modern
dance company will be viewed as a place for people who couldn't
make it in the real thing. Walking away from an old dream
can take real courage, especially when everyone you know respects
the object of that dream.
Martha Beck writes about the horrified reactions of her former
academic colleagues when she turned down lucrative positions
to live on credit card debt and start her new life. I know
people who turned down prestigious options for study, work
or living because they knew what they wanted. The experience
of being in a comfortable, supportive place where they could
shine made them successful in the long run.
And once you realize who you are, opportunities often do
appear as if by magic.
Of course some people belong in the stratosphere. Their challenge
is to recognize and honor their talent. Jodie's roommate,
Eva, has to overcome a rebellious attitude and then take risks
to show that she belongs in The Company. She'd be miserable
in a start-up jazz ensemble.
If you really hate the movie, you may not linger for the
fable. But if you've ever worked in a world that has a well-defined
elite group, and you tried to find your place in that world,
you may get an extra layer of meaning as you watch Center
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.