All skintight purple leotards, all the time.
This Australian teen soap/sitcom, which recently made its way onto American cable, finishes its first season with this two-disc set. Get ready for more pirouettes, grand pliés, and Scandinavian turnstiles (I made that last one up) at Dance Academy.
Former farm girl Tara (Xenia Goodwin) is starting her second semester at the prestigious National Dance Academy in Sydney, with hopes of someday becoming a pro ballerina. Tara is romancing the hunky Ethan (Tim Pocock), and is best friends with partying rich girl Kat (Alicia Banit). Also along for the ride are troublemaking mean girl Abigail (Dena Kaplan), socially awkward Sammy (Tom Green, not the MTV Tom Green) and redemption-seeking bad boy Christian (Jordan Rodrigues).
I totally called it! When I reviewed Dance Academy Season 1, Volume 1, I wondered why Tara was spending so much energy romantically pursuing Ethan when she seemed like a natural match with Christian. Not only do the two actors have better chemistry, but the two characters are both the outsiders in the dance world. Well, guess what happens in these episodes? It doesn’t take long before Tara and Ethan are on the outs, and she and Christian start making googly-eyes at each other.
Part of this is fun to see, mostly because the actors play off each other so well, but it’s also a little troubling as to this show’s attitude toward relationships. It happens over and over—two characters develop feelings for each other, navigate various emotional hurdles toward being together, until, finally, there’s the big kiss and they’re a couple now. But then, by the very next episode, the writers come up with a way to break them up. These couples aren’t given any chance to be couples. Sure, the characters are young, and yes, it’s a TV show, so it has to make with the drama. Still, the show’s only giving us the falling in love and jumping from there right to the breakup, and that makes it seem like these kids don’t get a chance for even a little bit of happiness with each other.
Aside from the romantic ups and down, this latter half of the season leans more toward drama, with fewer “mismatched roommates” comedy episodes than we saw in volume one. All the teen show staples are here—eating disorders, parents’ divorces, coming out of the closet, and even (gasp!) sex. It’s all handled in a tasteful manner and never really pushes the envelope. That’s Dance Academy‘s biggest flaw. Aside from the balletic premise, there’s nothing here that you haven’t already seen in any dozens of other teen/tween shows.
As for the positives, the cast continues to be likable and enthusiastic, which makes up for a lot. You get the feeling that they really are this group of friends. We get to see some of their completed dance routines from beginning to end, as opposed to just jumping and twirling while in class. There’s a ton of shooting outdoors on location in and around Sydney, which ups the production value considerably.
The creators go way overboard in making Abigail the mean girl, so that some of the choices she makes and the things she says has her seeming more unforgivable evil rather than merely bad attitude. The few moments she gets where the writers try to humanize her and show her vulnerable side, but those rare scenes are outweighed by her being despicable. They take the character too far into her evilness.
The visuals are good on this two-disc set, sometimes soft but not distractingly so. The 2.0 stereo audio is clean, but not outstanding. There’s a fun featurette that interviews the cast about the audition process, and about all the hard work and long hours that go into making the show, for a little “life imitates art” action. There’s a also a cast photo gallery.
Dance Academy is plenty watchable, and fine for what it is. It doesn’t break any new ground, though.
Your en pointe is not fully on point.