Here's one of the many (MANY) things that makes Center Stage so magical: There's a sense that the dance-actors were basically playing themselves. Amanda Schull, a real-life sweetheart who struggled with her turnout, became the sweet and turnout-challenged Jody Sawyer. Sascha Radetsky, a real-life heartthrob and all-around nice guy, became the adorable and eternally nice Charlie. And Ethan Stiefel, a real-life superstar with a bit of a bad-boy edge, became Cooper Nielson, a superstar with a MAJOR bad-boy edge.
Which is why it's so delightful when—16 years out!—Center Stage-rs do things that reconfirm that feeling of art imitating life. Like when Ethan Stiefel, tasked with creating a new ballet for The Washington Ballet, decides to take a 9,000-mile motorcycle ride to figure out the rather daring concept for the work. Because that's straight out of Cooper's playbook, and it really did just happen.
According to The Washington Post, earlier this year, Stiefel received a call from his former American Ballet Theatre colleague, Kathleen Donahue Julie Kent, now artistic director of The Washington Ballet. She wanted him to make a ballet for the company, and she wanted it to commemorate John F. Kennedy's would-be 100th birthday. “I was elated and flattered,” Stiefel told the Post. “And, like, ‘Whoa.’ I needed a moment.” That moment turned out to be a six-week motorcycle trek across the country. By the end of the trip, he had his idea: He'd make a ballet based on Kennedy's space initiative. Which is just the kind of intriguing, unexpected thing that Cooper Nielson might do.
The article includes a ton of fascinating info about the new ballet, Frontier, set to premiere in D.C. in May. (For example: Stiefel actually met with astronauts at NASA headquarters, which, 🙌.) Read the whole thing—and then go watch the Center Stage finale one more time, because it's Monday and you deserve it.