Center Stage: Turn It Up

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Center Stage: Turn It Up Movie Poster Image
Entertaining dance-focused romance has some mature themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Center Stage: Turn it Up offers strongly positive messages about believing in yourself against the odds, and the notion that hard work and accountability can pay off.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young adults in the film are extremely ambitious and devoted to their craft. They eschew having fun, drinking, even distracting relationships if it gets in the way of their art. Adults are a mixed bag in terms of role models, but realistic -- some are self-serving and arrogant, others are open-minded and compassionate. For girls and boys, there are good representations of hardworking young adults to model, in spite of the many distractions of the big city.


The main couple often dances together in sensual or suggestive ways. They also kiss frequently, and in two scenes there is implied intercourse -- one, when they are dancing together, then shown following one another into the bedroom. Later, a shot has them in bed (only the male shirtless) eating ice cream, presumably after sleeping together. In another scene, they wake up together. In one scene, there are mature themes that also involve the implication of possible sex, such as when it's implied that a female dancer is about to leave a club and go home with a teacher at the academy, though she changes her mind because she decides it "isn't right." Elsewhere, there is flirtation and a few night club scenes that involve dancing suggestively.


Brief profanity is used, such as "I don't have a giant stick up my ass," or "I'm just shooting the s--t." In one scene, a male dancer says "What the f--k" when he drops a dancer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many scenes occur in a nightclub where adults are served alcoholic beverages. There are a few formal events where champagne or wine is served. In all cases, no one is shown drinking to excess or underage, but alcohol is a consistent presence in the film's backdrop.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know That Center Stage: Turn it Up is a sequel to the teen-targeted dance romance Center Stage. The sequel involves fierce competition at a ballet academy, and tackles dating conflict, implied sex between consenting adults, frequent kissing and romantic overtones, nightlife, and some sensuality and suggestiveness, particularly in the dance routines. There is brief strong language. It's also often set against the backdrop of a nightclub, though it shows no underage or even indulgent drinking. It offers a wealth of positive messages about hard work and ambition and personal responsibility, and shows young adults behaving responsibly in spite of the temptations of night life, but its mature themes and romanticizing of city life make it best for older kids.

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What's the story?

Kate Parker (Rachele Brooke Smith) is a self-taught ballerina who dreams of the big time. When she heads to New York City, she sets her sights on dancing at the prestigious Ballet Academy. But when her audition doesn't go as planned, she has to rethink her strategy and what it means to make it, including her relationship with the intriguing academy dancer Tommy (Kenny Wormald).

Is it any good?

CENTER STAGE: TURN IT UP works the dance romance genre with a surefootedness that's unexpected -- a family-friendly Black Swan for a younger crowd, with none of the macabre. There's great chemistry between the leads, great pop and hip-hop music selection, and a deft handling of mature themes among young adults that the film works hard to depict as ethical, driven, and ambitious, but still young enough to make mistakes. 

But for kids aiming to make it as artists, it offers a lot of strong messages about the challenges of competing against the best, as opposed to being really good where you're from. It shows rivals and conflicts realistically, and, a plus for girls, especially, shows a headstrong, talented (and working class) woman who eschews the typical distractions of young adulthood (drinking, boys, loafing) to focus on her art. That said, it romanticizes big city living and ambition to a fault, and parents should be prepared to temper the movie's ending with a realistic discussion of the real odds of an untrained ballerina snagging a lead at a prestigious Broadway show with no formal training. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about drive. What is drive, and how do these characters show it? Do you feel driven toward a goal? What is it? What drives you?

  • How does the film portray the city of New York as a place to go to pursue your dreams? 

  • Do you think the outcome of the movie is realistic? What are the odds that someone with no formal training could land the role in a prestigious Broadway ballet in New York City?

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