” Conserve The Last Dance” Turns 20: E! News Rewind

Realities: If you ever slipped on a leotard and leggings in the mid-to-late ’90 s, there’s a strong chance you either wanted to resemble Spotlight‘s Jody Sawyer ( or Zoe Saldana‘s Eva Rodriguez, TBH, our vote for the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy) or Sara Johnson, the Chicago ballerina with big Juilliard dreams.

Made throughout Julia Stiles‘ effective teenager film run (which accompanied her modern-retelling-of-a-popular- William Shakespeare– play stage), 2001’s Conserve the Last Dance— which dropped rural Sara into a central city Chicago high school, where she naturally finds love with the one(!) successful Black male trainee, played by Sean Patrick Thomas— spent 2 weeks at the top of the box office, moving then-Columbia University freshman Stiles to the heights of ubiquity.

As the Black characters struggle with hardship, teenage being a parent and gang violence, privileged fish-out-of-water Sara connects with Thomas’ Derek, a senior with Georgetown ambitions who happens to be the sole Black male in the movie with an appealing future. And when their interracial love is challenged, Sara is painted as a victim, glossing over the other characters’ extremely real beef with the situation.


However the MTV Movies launch did gift us with lots of dance numbers to invest hours remembering, a solid soundtrack ( Pink‘s “You Make Me Sick,” Ice Cube‘s “You Can Do It,” K-Ci and JoJo‘s “Crazy”) and the important lesson that we ought to never ever leave our s– t on the flooring.

Plus, it introduced the world to an unknown Kerry Washington as Derek’s sister Chenille, who challenged Sara when she brushed off any reference of her intrinsic white benefit by boldly stating, “There’s just one world, Chenille.” Uhhhhh … As Chenille put it, ” That’s what they teach you. We understand different.”

So there are parts that are still slammin’.

And with the 20 th anniversary of the Jan. 12 release upon us, we’re ready to dust off our best STEPPS-worthy relocations and dance in circles. Probably around you. Here’s whatever you might have ignored the 2001 flick.

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1. Conserve the Last Dance wasn’t Julia Stiles initially time showing off her skills onscreen. True teen flick connoisseurs remember the 40- second scene in 1999’s 10 Things I Dislike About You that saw a 17- year-old Stiles climb atop a table at Bogey Lowenstein’s celebration and really hypnotize her fellow partygoers as Biggie Smalls‘ hit played. It captivated casting directors as well. “That’s how I got the job in Save the Last Dance,” Stiles exposed to United States Weekly in2014 “I believe it was from that scene. That’s what I was informed.


2. Obviously that wasn’t the only experience she gave the gig. “I’ve been dancing considering that I was little,” she shared on The Late Program with Craig Kilborn while promoting the film in2001 Still, to play a teenage ballerina with a realistic shot at participating in Juilliard, her years of modern-day dance experience weren’t going to suffice. “I had to do, like, a month and a half of 4 hours a day dancing my tush off,” she said. While that left the 19- year-old in what she called “the very best shape of my life,” her feet were damaged: “Oh my god, I had the nastiest feet … They ‘d bleed, they ‘d get calluses, blisters, bunions, all that stuff.”


3. It was all worth it as she reallllllly didn’t desire a body double. “The problem for me was I needed to continuously show myself as a dancer, since I didn’t desire them to double me,” she explained to Hollywood.com months after the film’s release. “So I resembled, I understand you’re gon na have to double on pointe cause I can’t do pointe, but whatever else needs to be me. And I informed them I didn’t want them to bring a hip-hop double in.”

Therefore, much of her training concentrated on those routines “and I was more comfy with it,” she said. When it comes to the ballet, let’s simply state it required a jeté of faith. “Everyone’s anticipating that you’re not gon na have the ability to dance well since you’re the starlet,” she continued. “The first time we shot one of the ballet things I was shaking. And when we ‘d done a couple of takes I was able to relax.”


4. Her equivalent had to put in work. At the time, Sean Patrick Thomas was a 31- year-old star with a handful of film credits who had hardly seen the inside of a studio. ” I didn’t have dance experience, except for some aerobics dance classes, and I had to dance at the last audition,” he recalled in an interview with Nitrate Online. “Generally, with any kind of choreography, you have to discover it and practice it. I didn’t have that opportunity– they taught it to me that early morning. I did the very best I might”.


5. The fake it ’til you make it aspect wasn’t the only thing that gave him pause. Having already shot a background part as Jock # 2 in Can’t Barely Wait and portrayed Ronald the cello instructor who succumbs to Selma Blair‘s Cecile in Vicious Intents, he feared he might be pigeonholed as a teen motion picture actor.


6. Her years at the barre wasn’t the only experience Stiles drew on during the Chicago shoot. Maturing in New York City’s Soho, the eldest of Judith and John Stiles‘ three kids, her urban middle school was “a lot like [the film] where I was the only white lady,” she informed Hollywood.com. “And I wished to be a homegirl so terribly, so I hung out with the hard homegirls and pretended to be like that.”

She told Wanderer that her daily uniform included door-knocker earrings not unlike those she wore in the film, a Raiders hat and a healthy application of lip liner. ” Everybody wanted to be a homeboy or homegirl,” she explained, “and I attempted to mimic that.”


7. What really attracted her to the role was the opportunity to work with famous choreographer Fatima Robinson The film’s chief choreographer, Robinson’s clients have included everyone from the Backstreet Kids and Black Eyed Peas to Michael Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Leona Lewis, Prince, and Rihanna


8. And those who worked to remember every move of Sara and Derek’s chair routine might have picked up on the truth that it was lifted from the Backstreet Boys’ “As Long As You Love Me.”


9. At 22, Kerry Washington was fresh out of school, an anthropology and sociology degree from George Washington University in hand, when she accepted her breakout role as teen mommy Chenille. At that point, the future Emmy winner’s credits included an ABC After School Unique that earned her a DROOP card, a PBS education series and the drama Our Tune, which saw the Bronx native playing a 15- year-old living in the Brooklyn jobs.


10 Naturally, Washington put in the work to nail her part. “I did a great deal of research and hung out with teen moms and dads when I was getting ready for the role,” she told Contactmusic.com. “They helped me understand that when you have a child at that age, unexpectedly you actually get that motherly, care-taking feeling towards a lot of individuals around you, which really assisted me comprehend why she was willing to welcome Julia Stiles’ character. I think there’s a part of that, you understand, that having a child just makes you sort of increase to the event.”


11 While rural Lemont High School easily doubled for its city counterpart, set designers had to put a little work into creating STEPPS. Chicago spot The Crowbar “was actually like this odd gothic club,” Stiles revealed, “that they redressed it to make it look hip-hop and reggae.”


12 The cast definitely appreciated the effort. ” There was one point where we were shooting in the club and Julia and I relied on each other at three in the morning, and realized that we were getting paid to dance and have an incredible time in a club in Chicago,” Washington told Rolling Stone of the experience.” You understand all the dancing when the credits are performing at the end? That was throughout the last night of shooting at the club, and we just danced for hours– pulled the producers and the sound people and the prop guys on the dance floor.”

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13 We have the film to thank for the birth of Snooki Sorta. Then a high school trainee much better known as Nicole Polizzi, the future Jersey Shore standout lifted her fame-making label from the movie’s class clown who moonlighted as a DJ at STEPPS.

Paramount, MTV Studios

14 There was a Conserve the Last Dance 2, a 2006 straight-to-DVD release that followed Sara to Juilliard, where she fulfills and falls for Columbus Short‘s hip-hop theory visitor lecturer Miles. Regretfully, Stiles didn’t sign back on, leaving ballet trainee turned actress Izabella Miko to fill her pointe shoes.


15 Safe to say Stiles’ fame-making film isn’t on her regular watching list. “ Save the Last Dance came on TELEVISION the other night … and there belonged of me that wondered about the memories of making that movie,” she shared throughout a 2019 look on Excellent Morning America “And after that I right away turned it off because it was cringeworthy to me. When you see images of yourself as a teenager, part of you goes like, ‘Oh yeah.’ And after that part of you resembles, ‘Oh my God.'”

Though, sign us up for the sorta kinda reboot Washington first floated in Stiles’ 2001 Rolling Stone profile. Gushing about her costar’s ” intelligence and dedication and pure skill,” Washington said, ” I anticipate dealing with her when we’re both in our sixties.”


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