Girl of the Year 2014 Movie: Isabelle Dances into the Spotlight

Released on DVD in July 2014


Isabelle is enjoying her time at the Anna Hart Dance School, despite some snobbery from another student, Renata, who surmises that Isabelle's only in the exclusive school because her very talented sister got in first. Isabelle tries to not let that get to her, focusing instead on the recently announced auditions for The Nutcracker. Her idol, Jackie Sanchez, will be the Sugarplum Fairy! Jackie Sanchez also comes to watch Isabelle and her classmates perform at a hospital benefit on Halloween. Isabelle is mortified to slip up a few times, but after the performance, a little girl in a wheelchair comes to ask for Isabelle's autograph. And then Jackie Sanchez herself talks to Isabelle and congratulates her on "dancing with joy." Isabelle's more than ready to audition now!

Happily, Isabelle wins some parts in the corps, and Jade will be Clara! Their mom is going to make the costumes, and Isabelle's excited to help. Renata is also in the corps (but not Louisa), and tries to psych Isabelle out. One fourth grade student will be chosen from the cast for a summer program with the New York Ballet--and both Isabelle and Renata are convinced they'll get it. Renata takes every opportunity to rattle Isabelle, and it affects her dancing. Jade offers some tips, and Jackie Sanchez herself gives Isabelle some one-on-one coaching. Isabelle has a breakthrough, the dance finally making sense. Just after the coaching, she sees Renata on the phone with her parents, who were supposed to take her out to dinner. They're cancelling on her, again. As an olive branch, Isabelle offers Renata a ride home, but they quickly devolve into sniping at each other. When Renata hears that Jackie Sanchez was coaching Isabelle, she's upset.

The next day, Renata overhears the director worrying that one scene isn't showcasing the dancers well enough, so she suggests that he change the choreography a little, maybe something little more challenging, like double pirouettes. Her plot works: Isabelle can't get the new routine as quickly as the other dancers, and the director notices. Isabelle even hears him say that he might need to cut her from the scene. Her best friend Louisa comes to the rescue, reminding Isabelle that she's a great dancer, who just needs confidence. She reminds her that dancing is fun, and that Isabelle is above petty comments. Renata mouths off, saying that if it weren't for Jade, Isabelle wouldn't be in The Nutcracker at all--and now she's going to screw it up. Jade defends her sister, but it backfires: Isabelle's sick of being in her sister's shadow. Jade tries to tell Isabelle that everyone has demons to battle (Jade's expected to be perfect, and no one has time to help her when she's struggling), but they end up fighting. Jade still cares about Isabelle, and confides in Jackie Sanchez, who comes by in person to help. She tells Isabelle that the reason she's in The Nutcracker because Ms. Sanchez wanted her, not because of Jade. She saw how Isabelle inspired the audience (e.g.; the autograph) and knew she could do well on the big stage. The sisters make up shortly after.

On opening night, Isabelle's confidence is back. Enough so that when she sees Renata rip her skirt (just after seeing that her parents didn't show up, picking her older brother over Renata again), Isabelle offers to help fix it. The girls bond a little, at least admitting they don't hate each other, and Renata sort of apologizes for her comments. They end up having a friendly rivalry by the end of the movie. Everyone dances their best and the audience loves it.

A short time later, the students who won spots in the New York Ballet summer program are announced. Renata sees the list first, and is disappointed that she's not in--but not heartbroken. Acting on some advice from Isabelle, she's talked to her family about spending more time together, and they're going to do a big family vacation in the summer. Isabelle and Jade both got in though--they're going to New York City to dance together!


Filmed in Canada.

I put this on hold at the library, but I was the one hundred twenty-fifth person to do so. So I found it on Youtube. The version I found is sped up. The characters all speak super-fast, and when they laugh it sounds really funny.

Instead of a fall recital, the first things Isabelle is practicing for is a Halloween benefit.

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of dancing and singing.

The actor who plays Jade would also make a good Julie. Or maybe she could play Julie's older sister Tracy, and the girl who plays Isabelle could be Julie (I just think the other girl looks more like Julie).

Some of the exposition is really painful. Especially with the sped-up speech.

There's scene in Isabelle and Jade's bedroom when the sisters are talking about Isabelle meeting Jackie Sanchez, and the value of hard work. Isabelle's wearing an orange beret. I'm almost positive it's a pattern called Portia by Louisa Harding, which I made my niece for Christmas a couple years ago (in pink, purple, and white).

The bit with the sash isn't in the movie, and Isabelle learns about visualization from Jade instead of a teacher. Isabelle stills draws inspiration from the water lily pond, by imagining herself as light reflected in the artwork her mom made based on the pond.

I'm used to hearing ballet pronounced "bal-LAY" but a lot of the actors in the movie say it "BAL-lay." Canadian thing? East coast thing? My best friend was a ballerina (I got to see her in The Nutcracker a few years ago) and she pronounces it like I do.

I noticed that the instructors are literally hands-on, touching the dancers a lot to show them the right way to move their bodies. My best friend says that in ballet you get used to people touching you all the time. I hit my limit on physical contact pretty quickly; one of the reasons I'd be terrible at ballet.

The room that Isabelle and Jade share is half bedroom, half dance studio, with a dance floor, barre, and mirror. In the books, Jade could often be heard practicing in the room.

Am I the only person with long(ish) hair who puts it up when I sleep? It would take all morning to untangle my hair if I didn't braid it at night. I braid my older daughter's hair for bed too, and will do the same with my younger daughter when her hair's long enough.

A high school football game this late in the year--after Halloween, and presumably getting close to Christmas--might be the state championships, meaning both Renata and her brother were performing in the highest level they could currently attain in their pursuits. That would actually be a tough call for most parents, although I would hope that most parents would have gone to some of the daughter's ballet performances in the past. Faced with that dilemma, I'd go to one and my husband would go to the other.

There's fake snow falling during some of the ballet. Wouldn't that be really slippery? I don't remember if the version of The Nutcracker I saw had fake snow.


Isabelle Palmer - Erin Pitt
Nancy Palmer - Melora Hardin
Jade Palmer - Grace Davidson
Leo Palmer - Jake Simons
Louisa - Devyn Nekoda
Renata - Genneya Watson
Drosselmeyer - Rex Harrington
Jackie Sanchez - Tanya Howard
Mr. Kosoloff - Daniel Fathers
Ms. Hawken - Sarah Murphy-Dawson
Uncle Davi - Francisco Trujillo
Chloe - Saara Chaudry
Emma - Alyssa Trask
Dancer 1 - Danielle Ching
Lead Singer - Kolton Stewart
Backup Singer - Morgan Hilliker
Nutcracker Prince - Brennan Clost
Mouse King - Edward Tracz
Fritz - Findlay McConnell
Nutcracker Dancer - Julian Elia
Nutcracker Dancer/Hip Hop Dancer - Shale Wagman
Nutcracker Dancer - Ty Forhan
Nutcracker Dancer/Hip Hop Dancer - Joshua Lamb
Nutcracker Dancer - Shane Simpson
Nutcracker Dancer - Justin Lopes
Nutcracker Dancer - Jarvi Raudsepp
Nutcracker Dancer - Sarah Koekkoek
Nutcracker Dancer - Laurie E. Nielsen
Nutcracker Dancer - Sarah Victoria Williamson
Hip Hop Dancer - Mathew Edmonson
Hip Hop Dancer - Avery Trask

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