Dance Academy is a TV show aimed primarily at teenagers which first aired on ABC1. It chronicles the adventures of Tara Webster (played by Xenia Goodwin), a fifteen year old Aussie girl from a small country town who dreams of being a professional dancer. Tara is overjoyed to be accepted into the National Academy of Dance in Sydney but the school is not quite what she expected. She learns that while she has great potential she is far behind in her training and will have to work even harder than her friends to reach her goal. Along the way she has friends trying to help her and a competitor trying to sabotage her career before it even begins. The dialogue is realistic, the acting superb and the dancing beautiful, making it all round good family viewing.
Season One covers Tara's first year at the academy, with all its ups and downs. Her friends struggle with eating disorders, family crises, relationships and all the problems normal teenagers face with the added pressure of daily training to dance to a professional standard. They often question whether their commitment to their dreams is worth the sacrifice of not having as much time for fun as other kids their age.
Watching Dance Academy just after I finished watching Season 3 of Skins, a very different teen drama, it struck me how wholesome the show was. The characters sound like real teenagers except for the fact that they never swear (not that that's a bad thing, it's just not my experience of real Australian high school kids). While they do get into trouble sometimes there is no drug taking or sex, making Dance Academy suitable family viewing for daytime television which Skins is decidedly not.
Unlike in many other teen dramas, the actors in this series are not twenty-somethings playing teenagers but actual teenagers, and amazingly talented teenagers at that. To land roles on the show they had to skilled in dancing as well as acting. The audience is treated to many examples of both classical and contemporary ballet and other styles such as hip hop. Xenia Goodwin's dance of The Ugly Duckling is particularly beautiful. Despite what hard work the show depicts dancing to be, I wouldn't be surprised if this show inspires a new generation of young ballet dancers.
Dance Academy season one was released on dvd in 2010. Season two, in which the characters are in their second year at the academy and compete to enter the elite dance competition the Prix de Fonteyn, is also available on DVD. A third season, which will show the characters in their final year at the academy competing to earn a contract with the dance company will go to air in 2013. I can hardly wait!