A feelgood, against-the-odds dance movie set in Sydney and New York, Dance Academy – which continues the storyline from the twice Emmy-nominated Australian TV series of the same name – has energy and dynamism. On television, the show saw a group of teenagers through the ups-and-downs of elite training at the National Academy of Dance. Picking up 18 months after the finale, the characters have moved on from the Academy.
Former ballet student, Tara (Xenia Goodwin), was destined to become one of the top dancers of her generation before a devastating injury crippled her career. She slipped on stage and broke vertebrae in her back, which impacted her spinal cord. Tara tries to move on and embrace life as a university student but can’t get over her dream of dancing professionally. Haunted by the night she was injured, she embarks upon an against the odds comeback. Leaving her life and long-term boyfriend Christian – a teacher at a local drop-in dance centre – behind in Sydney to head to New York, she is determined to prove to the ballet world and to herself that she still has what it takes. The plotting takes many a turn as a broken Tara tries to find her way in life. Inevitably there are false steps (pun not intended) and setbacks, as the journey is paved with potholes.
The intense competitiveness to become “the chosen one” is amply illustrated and then it becomes a question of the price one pays for that. Fame and notoriety carry with it a toll. At various junctures, Goodwin displays both vulnerability and strength. I was a tad concerned initially that she was too passive to inject the necessary gravitas to carry the role, but I gradually grew more comfortable with her representation.
Martin McGrath’s cinematography and the soundtrack by David Hirschfelder are noteworthy. There are several references throughout the script to the accident that is the backbone of the story. While I understand the importance of that incident, I thought the filmmakers (in particular director Jeffrey Walker) overplayed their hand by frequently replaying a re-enactment using black and white footage. It started to wear thin after a while.
Sitting watching the film, my mind began wandering to similar themes of heartache and struggle explored by other artistic performance-based films, such as Strictly Ballroom and Fame. Also featuring Miranda Otto and Tara Morice, Dance Academy: The Movie is quite a ride, with the love of one’s craft, dignity, respect and finding oneself at its core. Rated PG, it scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Cast: Miranda Otto, Keiynan Lonsdale, Xenia Goodwin, Jordan Rodrigues
Release Date: 6 April 2017
Rating: MA 15+
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Ali’s Wedding – movie review
- The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – movie review
- The Dancer – movie review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television