The Red Shoes this ain't. Though Stewart does, unfortunately, resort to a farcically hokey sentimental ending, most of this Manhattan ballet-world soap opera is bitchy, smartsy, and often hilariously cynical. Stephanie Lang and Christine Avery, two ballerinas who pirouette their way from ballet school to solos at Lincoln Center, are best friends and as sweet as they come--but everyone around them is bitter, ruthless, and not to be trusted. Stephanie's pushing mother, a ballerina who quit years ago in a row with super-choreographer Marius Volmar, makes Gypsy Rose Lee's mom look retiring; her interfering breaks up Stephanie's romance with a terrific choreographer-dancer, one of the few heterosexual guys around. Volmar himself is a horrid psychological manipulator who foments jealousy between the two rising ballerinas (later they'll fight over a shallow Russian superstar whom they both adore) while planning to astound the world by restoring to Sleeping Beauty a long-lost piece of original choreography. And through it all, the smoking, starving, ascetic and/or decadent dancers gossip and bicker backstage and onstage. There are nasty lines here about audiences (dumb), critics (dumber), patrons of the arts (dumbest), and about cock-a-doodling Russian defectors. Names are dropped like mad, along with jargon and detail--sweat and leg-warmers and tricks of the trade. This chit-chat is the appeal here, not the corny plot, which lapses tastelessly (like a homosexual dancer mugged in Central Park who'll never dance again) and which reaches its nadir when Steph gives up her biggest break so that Chris--terminally ill with the Love Story disease, a.k.a. Segal's Syndrome--can dance just one more time. If you take all that about as seriously as the witchy Mr. Stewart obviously does, and if you're a balletomane eager to have your romantic illusions splattered upon, get up on point for this one.