Stream-It Saturday: Dance Academy (TV)

Stream-It Saturday: Dance Academy (TV)

In my continuing selfless service to the world (ahem), I'm always looking for the next awesome thing to stream. And, of course, I must share my finds with you fabulous folks. Hence, Stream-It Saturday. Check out all my previous recommendations over here. 

This week's recommendation was pretty much inevitable: ABC Australia's charming half-hour teen ballet drama, Dance Academy. 

Here's the deal: Dance Academy is set in Sydney, Australia at an elite school for aspiring dancers. Just getting into the school is intensely competitive, and it's a feeder for the National Ballet Company. Over three years, the students train in hopes of being one of two or three students selected to join the Company. It's intense and brutal, physically. Amidst all that competition and training, these are still teenagers dealing with all the stuff that teenagers deal with. And, it's also a boarding school story, since they live at the school at which they train. 

The main protagonist, Tara Webster, is the proverbial fish out of water, having lived on a sheep ranch (are they called ranches in Oz?) in a rural area of Australia. She's got loads of raw talent, but her technique is rough from studying at a small, non-competitive ballet school in her area. 

Tara's joined by other first year students, Sammy, Abigail, Kat and Christian. Each of these characters narrates one or more episodes a season, with Kat's older brother Ethan (an Academy student too) also being an important character. 

The first season of Dance Academy is pretty much just fun, a better than average teen show, and extremely binge-watchable, but the series really gets good in its second season, when Queen of Aussie YA Melina Marchetta got involved in writing for the show. It takes a turn toward more complex character arcs, tighter, season-long story-lines and some truly heartbreaking moments.

There's also some meaty exploration of identity, particularly of Sammy's growing understanding of his sexuality, 

What follows is a coming out story that’s both familiar and unusual. Familiar, because “boy falls in love with boy and grapples with his sexuality” stories are a dime a dozen these days, and unusual because, miracle of miracles, Dance Academy acknowledges that bisexuality exists.
Dance Academy and the (re)/(de)construction of Australian masculinities, No Award

I have a ton of love for this little Australian show--it's kind of a funny secret handshake, because whenever I discover someone I know has watched (and loved, as everyone does) this show, it's impossible not to discuss ever little detail. Especially The Thing That Happens in Season Two. Everyone has a favorite character and a great pitch as to why that character is the best. (My favorite is Abigail, who seems like the quintessential "mean girl" archetype, but is actually a very complicated character who's battling the reality that her athletic body type is not valued in ballet, which she loves more than anything.)

In a lot of ways, Dance Academy is the television equivalent of a YA novel. It's got all the hallmarks of that category: coming of age, friendship, first independence, identity. If you're a YA reader, you'll glom DA just like you would a solid contemporary YA series.

(And this is where I'm restraining myself from a rant about how television is just another form of storytelling and that the whole books versus TV debate is one of the falsest of false dichotomies.)

Stream It: All three seasons of Dance Academy are currently streaming on Netflix. 

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