Dance Academy is an Australian teen drama thing that’s come to America through the power of Netflix. It follows a group of teens as they join a prestigious ballet academy and their trials and tribulations as they go along. Sounds JUST like Center Stage, right? Of course it does. Only this time, it’s in Australia, and there are two full seasons, with a third just starting up. So that’s MORE dancing and MORE teenage drama and MORE snarky attitudes!! Aren’t you excited?
No really, you should be. You see, one thing that Center Stage did really well was showcasing class at a pre-professional level at a major ballet school. Yes, some things they got wrong, or jazzed up, but in general, they did a good job. Dance Academy does this, but with teens. In many American shows and movies, teens are either precocious little fucks who snark on everything, or are being played by 25-30 year olds with ripped bodies. Dance Academy plays them for actual teens, and sometimes it’s incredibly cringe worthy, but it’s always pretty spot on. Every time the lead female talks about love or her expectations for life, you can hear the entire world groaning, except for that one woman who’s reading a Judith Krantz novel. However, unlike Welcome to the Dollhouse, this type of cringing doesn’t make you want silence everyone who knew you when you were 14. It’s a more forgiving cringing, and honestly, the show makes up for it.
Each main character is allowed to be a fully realized character. Tara, our heroine, is a naïve and bright eyed country girl who loves to dance. Yet, for all her ingénue qualities, she has quite a few moments where she’s allowed to be the smart one, or the crafty one, or the older wiser one. Her best friend, Kat, who would be there just for comedic relief, is given a lot more than just the goof-ball role. The best example of the fleshing out of characters comes with the third lead, Abigail. She starts out as the cold hearted bitch of the series. Friendless and utterly dedicated to dance, but as the series goes on, she grows. There are plenty of episodes where she’s actually right about the way she’s dedicated and has read the people around her.
Lastly, one thing I have to say that I absolutely adore about this show is the way it treats food. Quite often, the characters are gathered around eating and they actually seem to eat. Kat is always munching on something, and you know what? No one says anything! Ok, there’s one episode that talks about bodies, but even then, none of the girls deal with eating disorders or are mocked for eating. I realize that this is unrealistic, and I have plenty of dancer friends who find this almost laughable, but just think about that for a second. This is a show about teens in a dance school, and they’re not all in the grip of an eating disorder. It might be a fantasy world, but that’s a fantasy world I want to live in.
Dance Academy isn’t the best show ever. It certainly has some major flaws, especially in the way the adults are handled. However, I’ve found it to be refreshing, well done, and inspiring. Seasons one and two are on Netflix and Season Three has just started, so you can find that online. Look for recaps coming up!!