Starring: Miranda Otto, Alicia Banit, Dena Kaplan, Keiynan Lonsdale, Thomas Lacey, Tara Morice (Rated PG – 100 min).
It would be a surprise if the executives of ABC television thought back in 2010 that the little teen drama series they green-lit, Dance Academy, would go on to international acclaim. Multiple award nominations, a massive global fan-base, and now spawning its first foray onto the big screen.
Although the feature film follows what the characters are now up to, dancing is almost secondary. The impressive narrative stands alone enough that if one is not familiar with the previous TV show, latching onto their current adventures is interesting enough to hold the attention.
Xenia Goodwin (looking exactly like a young Rachel Griffiths) plays Tara, she had previously broken her back and told she would never dance again. However doctors pass her fit and in her own mind, she wants to return to centre stage.
Most of her former academy colleagues are now scattered, particularly in New York, and it is only a matter of time until Tara decides she wants to leave Sydney to join them thanks to some prompting from a highly regarded Ballet Prima Donna Madeline Moncur (Miranda Otto).
Tara arrives in America and catches up with good mate Ben (Thomas Lacey) who she finds out is not in the best of health. While zany friend Kat (Alicia Banit) has practically given up dancing for her dream to act and is a lead in a Disney style flying princess series that has become a ratings winner.
Quite obviously this movie was made with an overseas market audience demographic in mind as the appeal to the show is more global than local. However fresh faces and good young talent across the board help. Beautifully choreographed dance movements and recitals are the highlight but this is no Black Swan (2010). The familiar teen-friendly story arcs stick to romance, heartache, drama and happiness.
It is always truly lovely to see Tara Morice, star of what is now considered an Australian classic, Strictly Ballroom (1992). On the generational flip-side, impressionable underrated talent Alicia Banit (Summer Heights High, Neighbours) plays popularity-seeking Kat to perfection, a solid actress not unlike a younger version of her established co-star Miranda Otto. She is destined to revel in a long career.
Supporting Australian films is important, considering the abundance of recent dance inspired films such as the never ending ‘Step Up’ saga. Dance Academy certainly holds up as a better than average Easter school holiday cinema choice.
Shane A. Bassett