At Sydney’s National Dance Academy, a few talented youngsters are recruited for the excruciatingly tough course.


Running time: 90 minutes
Country: Australia
Director:  Jeffrey Walker
Cast: Xenia Goodwin, Alicia Banit, Dena Kaplan, Jordan Rodrigues, Keiynan Lonsdale, Thomas Lacey, Tara Morice and Miranda Otto
Release: 6 April, 2017
Rating: PG


The highly successful ABC TV teen drama, Dance Academy, screened in Australia over 3 seasons from 2010 to 2013. It followed the lives of a group of aspiring young dancers who were selected to train at the National Academy of Dance, the top ballet school in the country. The plot is centred on Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin), a naive country girl whose dream was only ever to be a professional dancer. Over the series she befriends other members of the Academy and progresses through the school, but on the eve of being granted a contract with the National Ballet Company, she falls and breaks her back. Seemingly, her career as a dancer is over.

The film of the same name revisits the group of friends several years later. Tara has mostly recovered from her accident and is now studying at university, attempting to find satisfaction on a different path and accept that her long-held goal of being a dancer is unattainable. Some of her friends continue to dance, her boyfriend, Christian (Jordan Rodrigues), now teaches dance to disadvantaged kids and her best friend, Kat (Alicia Banit), is finding success as an actor in New York. In an attempt to cheer up her friend, Kat offers Tara a ticket to New York for a break, but instead Tara sees this as an opportunity to prove to herself and others that her dancing days are not yet finished.   

This follow-up film is likeable and well made, and it is bound to appeal to its target audience. Production standards are high – the film’s settings, mostly in Sydney and New York, look great and the local scenes, many of which were shot around the Harbour and Opera House, are guaranteed to please. The young cast, all of whom are reprising their television roles, perform well and evenly, without any standout performances. Although this is only director Jeffrey Walker’s second film, he has a very well qualified crew behind the cameras. Their skill is particularly evident in the film’s editing and cinematography. Writer Samantha Strauss, who was also head writer across the entire TV series, is clearly very comfortable and familiar with her material and her work feels authentic, despite some incongruities such as Kat living in a penthouse of the Peninsular Hotel in Manhattan, and Christian's harbourside apartment, right opposite the Opera House! 

At a well-paced 90 minutes, there isn’t time in Dance Academy to explore any issues in depth, but the film touches on topics such as self-acceptance, competitiveness, the value of relationships, and recognising what really matters in life. For viewers who’ve followed the story of Tara, Kat, Christian and the others, this is a tidy ending, 4 years on, and just as the TV series has done so well internationally, it seems likely that this follow-up film will have similar success. 


3/5 Stars