Review / ‘Dance Academy’ (PG) *** and a half

BETWEEN 2010 and 2013, the Australian-made, 65-episode series “Dance Academy” ran on TV. Its writer Samantha Strauss has written a feature film that purports to pick up where the series stopped.

Apparently, at that point ballerina Tara (Xenia Goodwin) had suffered injuries suggesting that her performing career was over. The film begins with a medical all clear. Believing she has what it takes, Tara wants to resume climbing fame’s ladder.

On that ambition, Strauss and director Jeffrey Walker have concocted a 120-minute foray through the world of professional dance built around Tara’s almost obsessive determination to make it big in ballet.

Success eludes her in Australia. She goes to New York to stay with her blonde, bumptious and insecure chum Kat (Alicia Banit) playing a fairy in a kids’ TV series. It ain’t the glamour and fame of ballet, but it pays the bills.

Attractive young women inevitably attract young men. The film doesn’t labour that trend. Sure, after Tara goes to the Big Apple where she meets an expat Aussie dancer with health issues, a beautiful, mixed-race dancer in Sydney misses her more than she misses him.

After several employment disappointments she buses to a mid-West farm to seek advice from a retired dancer (Tara Morice who found fame in “Strictly Ballroom” – remember it from 1992?).

What balletomanes may find most interesting in “Dance Academy” are backstage scenes portraying the athleticism, physical rigours and emotional highs and lows of dance as a profession.

Dance sequences abound, particularly a modern ballet number in which the ballerinas wear skin-tight costumes embellished with giant CDs around their middles.

Our last sight of Tara is back in Sydney giving every indication that in the wings directing a dance performance is a satisfying outcome. Which in its own way is what the film delivers to its audience.

At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Hoyts


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