G’Day, mates! That’s me addressing you in the same slang they use on Dance Academy. Although now that I think about it, I don’t recall anyone saying that at all throughout the show. Anyways, if you didn’t catch that, this show is from Australia. If you’re in need of a program to watch this summer that isn’t too ‘involved’ like Breaking Bad or The Wire, this is the perfect show for you. As a bonus, each episode is 30 minutes, and there are only 3 seasons (which are all on Netflix Instant), so you don’t even have to worry about catching up before a new season starts!
As I mentioned in a post about my Summer To Do List a few months ago, my friend Ana was pushing me for MONTHS to watch DA, and I finally did. And following my tendency to get obsessed with TV shows, this show followed suit. If you like teen centered programs like Degrassi or loved the great 2000 film Center Stage, you will most likely get just as obsessed with DA as I am, and here’s why.
What It’s About
Dance Academy is mainly narrated by 15-year-old Tara Webster who is a newly accepted first year student at the National Academy of Dance in Sydney. The series follows her and her fellow dancer pals as they deal with teen romance, rivalries and the pressures of being at a highly competitive dance academy. You know, pretty much everyone’s usual upbringing Down Under.
Reasons to Watch
Aussie Aussie Aussie! (Oi! Oi! Oi!)
Most of the show takes place inside the Dance Academy itself, but there’s a lot of scenes that show Sydney and the surrounding areas. I’ve never been to Australia, but it’s always been one of the places on my ‘bucket list’, and watching this show just makes me want to go there more/temporarily fill my Aussie desires. Not to mention, it’s just *cooler* watching a show that’s not American, you know what I mean? I found myself wanting to watch episodes just so I could go back to ‘Sydney’ every night. It’s like when you watch Friday Night Lights and just want to go Dillon, Texas for an hour or two. I mean, I don’t make it a habit of yearning to go to Texas on a daily basis, outside of the context of FNL/Austin.
Coming of Age Storylines
If you’re a product of the 90s like we are, you grew up with shows like Saved by the Bell, Full House, Boy Meets World, everything on SNICK etc. But you know how there’s a difference between Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World? Saved by the Bell was a Saturday morning show where it was about sleeping over in a mall to get U2 tickets, while Boy Meets world was the TGIF show where Mr. Feeny would teach you a life lesson at the end of every episode. Dance Academy is more of the latter. While I can’t exactly relate to it like I did with SBTB or BMW when I was a tween, I imagine DA has the same effect of kids these days.
The show touches on a lot of different subjects throughout all 65 episodes that normal teens go through. All the kids come from different backgrounds – Tara is a naive girl from the bush (aka what ‘country’ is to us Americans), Sammy’s a Jewish kid whose dad disapproves of his dancing, Abigail, the daughter of a dance teacher, is a perfectionist whose only goal is to make it into the company, Kat comes from a super famous ballet family, and Christian is a troubled kid whose mom died and dad was absent most of his life and is in the Academy basically so he doesn’t get into trouble with the ‘bad crowd’. Together, they tackle themes of friendships, romance, jealousy, revenge, death, divorce, even eating disorders (come on, this IS a show about dancers), and don’t do it in a way that is tacky, insensitive, or too in your face. The fact that DA has won the Australian equivalent of the Emmy for Best Most Outstanding Children’s Program TWICE should say it all.
On paper, Dance Academy is a show for teens. It’s only in recent years that we’ve seen more family friendly shows incorporate gay characters, so it’s refreshing to see a show in Australia featuring a fairly prominent storyline that involves a gay (well, at least bi) character in Sammy. Without giving too much away, Sammy is faced with trying to figure out what these feelings he has for boys mean, and if he can be comfortable admitting those feelings to his friends and family. There’s also Ollie, who is not your ‘stereotypical’ gay dancer type, and he addresses his sexuality in such a nonchalant way that I almost didn’t notice he was coming out when he first talked about it. These two provide public figures that teens and younger kids can see on TV and realize that people don’t have to be reduced down to their sexuality, but that they’re just ‘Sammy’ and ‘Ollie’. Deal with it.
The Dancing, duh
I mean the show IS called Dance Academy, so there better be good dancing, right? What I appreciate about this show is that they clearly picked young people who were dancers first and foremost, then actors. I’ll admit, the acting isn’t Oscar worthy or anything, but you have to hand it to every single one of them for their dancing ability. It was hard to narrow three seasons of dancing into a sample platter for y’all, but I tried my best! PS: I would suggest not clicking on YouTube & just watching the embedded videos in case you’ll accidentally see a major spoiler!!
*Note: the video below is from the final scene of the entire series – it doesn’t give anything away, but JIC you don’t like any type of spoiler like me!*