Those of you not prone to randomly binge watching “Netflix Recommends” TV shows, particularly when the recommendation includes “because you liked Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, So You Think You Can Dance, and Saved By The Bell,”* may not yet have discovered “Dance Academy,” described by my roommate as an Australian dancing DeGrassi. Sure. Alls I know about Degrassi is that Drake was in a wheelchair. So sure, possibly.
Anyway, it’s about these lovely kids:
Particularly the brunette in the front. What I like about it, aside from all the awesome Billy Elliot/Centerstage/Chorus Line overtones and undertones, the music (which ranges from suspiciously Adele-sounding instrumentals to platinum Australian pop hits I’d never have heard of any other way**), Fran from Strictly Ballroom all grown up and scary, and the accents, is….actually those might be all the things.
No, I take it back! What I like about Dance Academy is all the things it does better than Glee: A smaller cast so both the audience and the writers can keep up with the story lines; dynamic female friendships that struggle at times, and characters from a variety of backgrounds without feeling like a Rainbow Ensemble (that said, it needs people of color). The mean girl of the piece is developed in a complex way – struggling with body issues, control issues, malicious impulses – and her story lines last longer than just a neatly wrapped- up episode. I could wish that the protagonist would enjoy being single and focus on her dancing instead of always having her relationship stakes SO HIGH but then I might vaguely remember being a teenager who dated a bunch of boys in a casual BUT EXTREMELY FIXATED way. So.
The silliest thing is that only one character so far has been gay; I KNOW there are straight dude dancers out there, but I think it is probably rare to find an entire national ballet academy full of them. That said, the one gay character’s coming out story was handled in what I thought was a great way – he begins the series with a girlfriend, breaks up with her for the academy diva, they have a semi-serious thing but stop short of having sex because it doesn’t feel right, and eventually break up. Then he gets into a close male friendship and realizes he’s having feelings for his buddy. When he finally confesses this to his best female friend, she tells him not to focus on the labels, but to address the feelings he’s having so he doesn’t torpedo the friendship. And when he finally does tell his guy friend that he has feelings for him, the guy barely blinks before insisting they’re going to stay close friends no matter what.
There’s a lot of relationship silliness, and crushes that get out of control, and the heroine has to learn to be true to herself over and over and over, but most of all I love how easy they make the dancing look. I may or may not have spent at least 2 of my in-ocean hours at the beach trying to stand en pointe in the water.
The moral of the story is that if you guys are looking for something to binge-watch, I recommend this. Especially if you maybe hoped to be a Broadway star but didn’t think to start taking dance until right before your freshman year of college when you decided to take jazz, tap, and ballet ALL AT THE SAME TIME. This may reawaken some of those delusions. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT.***