Dance Academy is an Australian teen drama which first aired in 2010, ran for 3 seasons and one movie which made it into Australian Cinemas. Dance Academy follows the lives of a group of teens attending the National Academy of Dance in Sydney. These kids were primed to join the Australian Ballet Company once they graduated if they were the best few. It is currently on Netflix if you’re interested in checking it out or re-watching! I grew up watching Dance Academy, it made me want to be a dancer or an athlete. However, I think it was a bit late for any of that.
So, here are all the things that I think make Dance Academy so great to this day and make me able to still enjoy it 10 years later.
Despite the actual ‘elite’ talent of the teens and their living away from home, Dance Academy is incredibly realistic to the teen experience. They show young teens making stupid mistakes over and over. It represents the real issues of eating disorders in teens, explores sexuality, cheating, hard work. Kat even has an identity crisis which I think is incredibly relatable to many teens who may discover they aren’t as about sure what they want to do after school than they once were, or realize that they don’t know at all. Kat portrayed this in her move away from dance before she returned realizing her passion and working hard to get where she wanted to be.
Dance Academy also dealt with illness and grief. Ben is a cancer survivor who in the movie has a ‘relapse’ and has to come to terms with his limits. The loss of their friend, Sammy honestly broke me and still hurts me when I watch it.
It talks about familial expectations and how hard they can push one. Working your way through school to support oneself. Sammy has a real struggle with his family throughout the whole show.
It also takes a hard look at how complicated friendships are in teen years and how hard it can be to know who your real friends are.
Body image issues and eating disorders need to be explored more in teen shows because it is such a common problem and Dance Academy did that. They looked at eating disorders and body image in elite athletes.
It also tackles crime with Christian’s past and upbringing in that world and Abigail’s shoplifting. They showed sexual assault as well.
Another realistic portrayal they presented was athletes and injury, athletes get injured often and keep going through the pain, this is exactly what happens in the show and it also presents how detrimental this can be for athletes.
Additionally, it portrays financial hardship, both Sam and Tara need a scholarship to keep attending because neither Sammy on his own or Tara’s family can afford to send them to the Academy.
Another important aspect for me about Dance Academy is, the actors they chose could genuinely dance. As opposed to other shows like Blue Water High (no shade) where actors are chosen as actors but can’t actually do the exact thing their character does. All of these actors were athletes. There was no need for stunt doubles or cutting scenes to avoid the face of the actor.
I also just feel like there is something so pure about the portrayal of the age group. While they aren’t incredibly young they also aren’t in their late teens which means that there are some cringey embarrassing moments and a lot of personal growth and self discovery. Had they set the ages as older the show would likely have revolved largely around bitchyness and sex but they chose teens who were still largely children. So yes, there is some crime in Dance Academy but I think that is so genuine to the age group, unlike shows like ‘Never Have I Ever’ (check out my thoughts on it here https://simplymythoughts.blog/2020/08/29/never-have-i-ever-been-less-impressed/), the cringe is so normal, its teens acting like teens worried about pimples and if the boy likes them.
Dance Academy showed that with hard work you can reach above and beyond. Tara began her time at the academy as one of the worst trained dancers in her year and became one of the best through hard work and determination. However, it isn’t unrealistic about how having a dream isn’t always enough especially as an athlete.
Keiynan Lonsdale also came from Dance Academy – you may recognize him from The Flash, Love Simon or Work It.
Honestly, the movie really didn’t disappoint me, I feel like I was prepared to be a little disappointed by it because when it came out I was 17 and following up 5 years after the end of Dance Academy, I was worried. But it really didn’t disappoint me, I feel like the movie in a way grew up with the original audience showing them working in the industry and the issues they’re still facing. The only disappointing part for me was how little Christian was in it, but, at least he came back. Almost all of the original cast came back for the reunion movie which I think is great. I also think it was quite exciting to be able to watch the movie on a cinema screen with the Dolby Atmos sound.
So, to sum up, I believe Dance Academy stood the test of time over my youth. I think it was super well done and showcased a lot of issues in a relatable and realistic way. Also, I love dance and any dance movies or tv shows so that was exciting. And we gotta support the Aussie television industry somehow. Don’t forget you can watch Dance Academy on Netflix now!
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