Home ContentMovie Review: Dance Academy

Movie Review: Dance Academy

Published : April 01, 2017

Chick-flick becomes a moral showcase for female youth – with or without ballet shoes.

Words: Juanita Pirozzi

Beginning in Sydney, Dance Academy follows the journey of twenty-something Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin), a former ballet dancer turned aspiring writer now waitress at the Sydney Opera House. Tara is in the process of settling her lawsuit against the ballet company for its negligence (she tripped on a bead and fell on stage breaking her back twice); when Madeline Moncur (Miranda Otto) suggests she re-audition for a place in the National Ballet Company. With the help of her partner and dancer friends, Tara abandons her lawsuit and returns to ballet for the first time in 18 months. Disappointed from failing her audition, she travels to New York to visit her friend, Kat (Alicia Banit). Whilst staying in New York, Tara does her best to keep her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer alive. 

As much as I wanted to enjoy Dance Academy I couldn’t overlook the mostly formulaic plot. It was obvious that Madeline had other intentions for encouraging Tara to audition knowing that she was suing the ballet company. When Tara went to New York leaving her boyfriend, Christian (Jordan Rodrigues) in Sydney, the effect this had on their relationship wrote itself into the script. In fairness the movie tried to use humour to diffuse its predictability but I found the one-liners; especially from Ben’s (Thomas Lacey) part were weak and tiresome.

I could tell that the movie’s target audience was mainly the wannabe dancers and/or dancing industry affiliates so it didn’t help that the majority of performance arts references were lost on me. I haven’t heard the name Persephone since The Simpsons so it was difficult to understand how relevant the story of Persephone was to Tara as a dancer but more importantly as a character.

Despite the average plot, Dance Academy proved to be more valuable in terms of what teenage girls and twenty something women can learn from watching this. And you don’t have to be a dancer to take these lessons on board either.

One of the morals of the film was the importance of pursuing one’s passion despite physical or emotional obstacles. It also teaches girls and young women that sometimes following their career goals can lead them to explore alternative opportunities which they may find more satisfying. 

In a scene where Tara is backstage during a live performance, Ollie (Keiynan Lonsdale) calls to tell her that Ben, who is battling leukaemia, had collapsed. I found this to be a good portrayal of the oldest rule in show business which is that the show must go on. In the film’s case, this is mainly because the audience doesn’t care about a ballet dancer’s personal problems.

The movie was also a good example of networking as a means of establishing or maintaining connections in a particular industry. During her visit to Texas, Tara awkwardly asked her former dance tutor for assistance in getting an audition. Like Tara, some of us may be intimidated by asking people we know for help in obtaining employment or setting up a meeting with a key person. However the lesson here is that this is how networking begins.

Dance Academy opens at Event Cinemas on Thursday 6 April 2017. Please check the Event Cinemas website for session times.

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