DANCE ACADEMY: THE MOVIE. Starring: Zenia Goodwin, Thomas Lacey, Dena Kaplan, Jordan Rodrigues, Alicia Banit, and Miranda Otto. Directed by Jeffrey Walker. Rated PG (Miid themes). 101 min.
This Australian film is a full length cinema version of what follows on from the award-winning, hit Australian TV show, "Dance Academy", which screened on Television in Australia and overseas, from 2010 until 2013.
The original series was set in a fictional National Academy of Dance set in Sydney. This film is about the same group of teenagers who have moved on from the original drama, 18 months after graduation. The film commences on location at the Sydney Opera House, Walsh Bay, and Sydney's Circular Key, and moves quickly to show the vitality and excitement of New York City.
Tara Webster (Zenia Goodwin) narrates the movie. Tara was en route to being a ballet star when she damaged her back in a freak accident at age 18 while performing on the stage at the Sydney Opera House. Constantly dreaming about a dancing career that tragically eluded her, she refused an insurance settlement to pursue what she thought she most wanted.
Tara decides to travel to New York, where she reunites with Kat (Alicia Banit), a close friend in her group back home, who has found success away from ballet. But she leaves some important friends behind. One especially significant person, who has always stood by her side is Christian (Jordan Rodrigues). In the US, Ben (Thomas Lacey) explores competitive auditions with her, and helps her realise she has creative choreograph talent, before he succumbs again to Leukemia. Turning back finally from her resolve to dance, she returns home to find other ways to express her passion for ballet. The movie tracks the original dance academy and picks up on the series' characters, showing what is happening to their lives now. It essentially focuses on the obstacles that the dancers faced, and the personal problems they experienced in trying to achieve their dreams. For Tara her original dream stays unfulfilled, but she discovers a love for choreography, and life again with Christian.
The film deals with life-threatening cancer, sexual identity, body image, impending death, and thwarted ambition. The film's Director, Jeffrey Walker, glides over some key emotional moments to keep interest keenly alive on dance. There are some wonderfully sophisticated dance sequences on location with the New York City Ballet Company that show the dancers' skills in full flight.
Most of the original cast in the television series have returned for this film. Goodwin, for example, was in the original television series, and Dena Caplan returns as Abigail Armstrong, the hard-working dancer who hasn't quite got the skills some of the others have. The film movingly portrays what happens to talented people when personal goals are forced to shift.
The film is geared obviously in its appeal to the teenage, young adult market, but sustains its thread to the original television series cleverly. A significant new figure in the film is Madeline Moncur (Miranda Otto), as the artistic director of the National Ballet Company, who is a key figure in Tara's decision about what she wants to do with her life. Although emotional stresses and strains weigh heavily on Tara and others in her group, dancing remains the movie's key feature. Jeffrey Waker does all that he can to make sure memories of the characters not so long ago are not laid aside as he explores what comes after when they move from being teenagers into young adulthood. Behind the movie is the communication that professional dancers frequently pursue lives that are fiercely competitive with personal life-goals. The mix is enjoyable and entertaining, and the film offers the viewer mature, and well developed drama.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released April 6th. 2017