My Favorite Dance Movie: Godwin Merano
From Billy Elliot to Black Swan, dance has provided an intense backdrop to some of the big screen’s most emotional stories. Dancers, in turn, are inspired by films which revolve on their chosen calling. In this series, the artists of Ballet Manila share their thoughts on the dance movies that made an impact on them, that they relate to and which they have grown to love.
Ballet Manila 2’s Godwin Merano has two all-time favorite dance movies – Mao’s Last Dancer and Center Stage. But pressed to make just one choice, he says it is the latter because it is his “first love.”
“What I love about Center Stage is that to this day (considering that it was made in the 2000s), it has to be the most accurate and true, honest depiction of what the ballet world is really like. Of course, there are some bits that are way exaggerated. But 98.9% of the film is very real and true,” Godwin claims.
This is how Godwin sums up the Center Stage story: “A dancer who finds herself in a new environment with new people and challenges has to work hard to become one of the best among a great amount of talented people. And in the end, she has to basically choose between her dreams or ‘what will make’ her dreams come true.”
For him, the movie works and is “very relatable” because of the powerhouse cast made up mostly of real-life dancers. Godwin enumerates, “Ethan Steifel (Cooper Nielson) was a former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, Sasha Radetsky (Charlie) was also a former principal dancer with ABT, Amanda Schull (Jodie Sawyer, the main character) trained with the San Francisco Ballet School and lastly, Julie Kent (Kathleen) was also a former principal dancer with ABT.”
“As for the choreography, I love all of it. They have everything from great combinations during the class scenes to classical favorites like Romeo and Juliet balcony Pas de Deux and Cygnets from Swan Lake.”
Jodie and Eva are the two characters that Godwin identifies with, since both girls have a burning desire to be great professional ballet dancers and touch the audience through dance. Like them, Godwin says, he’s had his struggles in getting through rehearsals and classes and even the hard choice of continuing with dance or stopping and finding something else.
“But also like them, I keep going because I can't see myself doing anything else but ballet. It gets tough, but it’s always only temporary. The pain and bad days will go away and all will be okay again,” shares Godwin.
On a more personal level, he understands the persona of Eva who is seen as a diva that doesn't care too much and almost seems to be a bitch. “I think the fact that she was misunderstood and judged for being this type of person is very much something I can relate to. People often have a very ‘clear’ notion of who I am given the aura I give out. But 99.9% of what they think isn't who I am at all. Yes, I may give off a very strong and almost intimidating energy, but deep down, I’m more than that. I have so much more and am so much more than that,” Godwin stresses.
How much does Godwin like Center Stage? So much that he and his best friend would recite lines from the movie throughout the day! One of his favorites is when the teacher corrects one of the dancers to do a double and yet the dancer still keeps doing a triple. The dancer replies, ‘Sorry, I thought there was enough room for three. Wouldn't it be better if we all did a triple?’ Now I don't think I could ever say that to a teacher or choreographer, especially not in that tone, but I think it’s just funny that they would show that in the movie because some dancers are like that.”
On the serious side, he likes a quote from Eva who declares: "I’m not dancing for them anymore, I’m dancing for me."
Godwin explains, “I think it’s a beautiful quote because I think that sometimes, dancers forget to dance for themselves. Of course we strive to please others – our teachers, choreographers and audience, that’s why we’re performers. But we also can't forget that we must dance for ourselves, for our heart and for our joy. We dance to please others but we should also always dance to please ourselves. At the end of the day, art, like ballet should come from within. It should come from the heart and soul.”
Godwin highly recommends Center Stage for its authenticity, humor, great acting, but above all, great dancing. “The message of the movie is that with whatever you do – whether it's ballet, cooking, basketball or anything – it should always come from the heart. It’s about believing in what you want and working to get it. It’s going to be one hell of a ride getting there, of course, because nothing worth having comes easy. But it all pays off because you will get there. You just have to trust yourself, especially your heart.”