About:

Title: Dance Academy Guide
Released: 2010
Series:  Dance Academy

About two weeks ago, I received an email from Lisa T, an FYA reader, urging me to check out a show called Dance Academy. Here’s what she wrote:

It’s an Australian show (sexy accents!) about a girl who joins the National Ballet Academy (shades of Jody/Center Stage) and it’s incredibly addicting. There’s a lot of FYA standards – Mysterious Loner Dude, teenage crushes, but with ballet sabotage and rivalries, the occasional baby kangaroo – even if you don’t want to review it for the site, it’s a fabulous show, cheesy, but compelling. I think you’ll like it.

Uh, Lisa, you had me at Center Stage. And then you had my hand in marriage at “baby kangaroo.” So I hopped on to YouTube and started watching the pilot, and y’all, LISA T WAS NOT KIDDING AROUND. This show is crazy addictive and jam packed with FYA’s favorite teen cliches. Everyone needs to watch it IMMEDIATELY! But in case you need more convincing (Really? Center Stage didn’t do it for you?), I present the FYA Guide to Dance Academy.

THE STORYLINE

Tara Webster has always dreamed of being a prima ballerina, and when she gets the chance to audition for the National Academy of Dance in Sydney, Australia, it seems like her wish has finally come true. But Tara’s small town background didn’t exactly prepare her for the rigor and competition at the academy, and almost immediately, she’s overwhelmed by the challenge. But with the help of good friends and the hope of romance with her unrequited crush, Tara begins to navigate the perils of ballet and the pitfalls of adolescence.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Tara, a brunette, shrugging and smiling in a dance leotard
Xenia Goodwin as Tara Webster

Following in the footsteps of great YA TV heroines like Angela Chase and Felicity Porter, Tara is loveable and extremely flawed. She’s insanely authentic, to the point where I want to smack her at least once during every episode, and that’s a good thing, you guys! She’s a real teenager! She’s dramatic and impulsive and clueless, but she saves herself with a naive sweetness and an endlessly positive nature.

Kat, a blonde in a dance leotard striking a pose
Alicia Banit as Kat Karamakov

Kat is MY GIRL! She’s gorgeous but super weird, so it would totally be possible for us be besties without me being jealous of her killer good looks. Kat is Tara’s closest friend at the Academy, and she totally doesn’t put up with Tara’s idiotic shizz. I LOVE HER. Also, she has a tendency to wear really bright-to-the-point-of-neon colors in a style that reminds me fondly of Claudia Kishi.

Abigail, a brunette with a "You've got to be kidding me" expression
Dena Kaplan as Abigail Armstrong

Every dance film/show has to have that one girl who’s the perfect dancer… and totally knows it. In Dance Academy, that girl is Abigail, and she’s pretty fierce. It’s fun to dislike her, but she’s nuanced enough that I never hate her.

Ethan, a muscular boy with auburn hair
Tim Pocock as Ethan Karamakov

And now, for the boys! We’ll start with the beautiful Ethan, who is Kat’s half-brother and Tara’s mega crush. He’s two years older than the girls, and he’s cocky but also a little bit sweet. He’s basically the Ben Covington of the show.

Christian, a hot Asian boy with a quizzical expression
Jordan Rodrigues as Christian

But even though Ethan is supposed to be the main boy candy, I swoon the most over Christian, the MLD of the show. He’s totally Jordan Catalano but WITH BRAINS. (Cue panty explosion.) He’s got a tragic, troubled past; he skateboards and surfs; he’s a kickass dancer; and he hates authority with a fiery passion. Christian, feel free to rebel IN MY PANTS.

Sam, a cute brunette boy smiling
Tom Green as Sam Lieberman

As you can see from the contrast between the above picture and the rest of the boys, Tom is the nerdy cutie of the show, i.e. he’s totes the Noel Crane. He’s goofy and thoughtful and awkward and just a total sweetheart. I want to hug him at least five times every episode.

Miss Raine, a pretty middle aged brunette woman
Tara Morice as Miss Raine

THAT’S RIGHT, Y’ALL. FRAN IS IN THE HIZZOUSE! When I was watching the pilot, and Miss Raine appeared, I started wildly flailing my limbs in a way that vaguely resembled the bogo pogo. I always wondered what happened after the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix! And now I know! Fran became a really uptight ice queen ballet teacher! Not… what I expected but whatever, I’m just glad to see her again.

BONUS FACTORS

Center Stage

As Lisa T mentioned, this show is basically the Australian version of Center Stage, and I am more than cool with that, because Center Stage is AWESOME. (And here’s the science to prove it.) There’s the struggling but passionate heroine who is the picture of innocence, the older, sexy guy, the super intense biotch who’s the best dancer in the class, the sweet guy friend, the strict but ultimately caring instructor and, of course, lots of impressive dance scenes. All of this adds up to an extremely enjoyable mix of adorable angst, sweet romance and deliciously shallow drama. I’m just really hoping to see some “Canned Heat” action in the season finale.

Sydney, Australia

A view of Sydney, with the opera house and the water

I was already jealous when Megan No H went to Australia last year, but then I started watching this show and, like, WHY DIDN’T I GET TO GO TO SCHOOL HERE?

The whole time I was a teenager, obsessed with boarding school, I never once thought about Sydney. Because I AM AN IDIOT. I mean, look at this school. LOOK AT IT.

Sam, dancing in front of a big building on the water

The show is effortlessly PACKED with gorgeous scenery, because apparently everywhere in Sydney is the most dazzling place in the world.  Like, Christian, want to ride your skateboard through a cemetery along the ocean? Sure, NO BIG D.

Christian, walking through an old cemetery with the ocean behind it

Even the school cafeteria is like something out of Frommer’s Dream Vacation Guide. This is where they eat their meals, you guys. THIS IS THEIR CAF. I MEAN. I CAN’T EVEN. WHAT.

A cafe patio on the water with tables, chairs, and umbrellas

Healthy Ballerinas

As you may have noticed in the pictures, all of the girls on this show look, like, regular girls! They’re pretty but not supermodels, and their limbs are muscular instead of sticks. It is SO REFRESHING. Gah, let’s all just move to Australia right now.

Opening Credits

Nowadays, it seems like a lot of shows have done away with the traditional opening credits. Either it’s an HBO show with a long string of incredible graphics, or it’s a CW show where they flash the title of the show along with a random sound. (Yes, Secret Circle, I’m looking to you.) I didn’t realize it until I started watching Dance Academy, but I miss the old days of credits with a song that gets stuck in my head, a song that makes me get excited that I’m about to watch the show, a song that I may or may not spontaneously sing in the shower and/or grocery store. A song like this.

I dare you to start the opening credits and then stop watching. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. So check it out and let me know what y’all think! And for those of you who are already fans, feel free to share even more reasons why we all need to enroll at Dance Academy as soon as possible.

Sarah splits her time between Dallas and Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.