TV for YA Lit Addicts: Dance Academy
So, you’ve heard the news by now: Bunheads was cancelled.
Let’s take a moment.
Take a deep, cleansing breath.
Are we ready to move on?
For those of you who join me in mourning ABC Family’s thoughtfully-produced television show about teen ballet dancers, I have an alternative: Dance Academy. This TV show hails from down under, now airing its third and final season on Australia’s ABC3 channel. American fans can catch up with the first two seasons on Teen Nick , download it on iTunes, or stream it via Netflix.
Dance Academy is essentially a YA novel in TV form. It centers around Tara Webster, a naive but talented girl from the country who is accepted to the illustrious National Academy of Dance in Sydney and finds herself navigating a complicated whirlwind of intense competition, new responsibilities, friendships, and romance. Like many YA books, this show is a roller coaster of a journey to self-discovery, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Tara and her friends through their victories and disappointments.
I’ve got five reasons YA lit readers will love Dance Academy:
A strong sense of setting
As Anna Tschetter wrote in a recent post here on The Hub, setting is an important factor in a memorable YA read– and the same goes for a good TV series. Dance Academy showcases the beauty of Sydney in a way that will make you want to hop a plane to Australia as soon as possible. If Australian accents are your thing, the actors will make you swoon, and yes, kangaroos make an appearance. Not only does this series highlight the allure of Australia, the boarding school setting is another draw. A boarding school is practically every teen’s dream, right? Being independent, fending for yourself, having a curfew– which, of course, means breaking it now and then…
This series has a fantastically diverse cast. For example, one of the main characters happens to be Asian, and he’s not the meek, math-nerd stereotype so often depicted in American media; he’s a tough, street-smart kid with a tormented past who happens to be an amazing dancer, and he’s a romantic interest for more than one girl. White girls, I should note– because interracial relationships are simply no big deal on this show. The series also features a Jewish character whose cultural practices are depicted on screen, as well as an interracial gay couple. Thank you, Australia!
Teens with goals
To me, one of YA lit’s major appeal factors is that it takes teens seriously. A good YA book depicts teens as multi-dimensional, relatable people with real interests and goals. I love it when characters have a true passion for something, and Dance Academy excels in this regard. Each character on the show is intensely dedicated to dance. They work incredibly hard, they make sacrifices– all while dealing with the concerns shared by all young adults– fitting in, making friends, dealing with parents, finding a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Move over, Blair Waldorf. Meet Abigail Armstrong. She’s terrifying. This girl can rock a headband, doesn’t need minions, and will dance circles around you. Ballet is her life. She’s determined to be the best dancer at the academy, and she’s going to get there at any cost… maybe. Okay, the truth? Abigail can be a total mean girl– but her personality is layered with sympathetic motivations, and her complexity is what makes her so endearing as a character. (Oh, and just wait till an even meaner girl shows up in season 2!)
Author Melina Marchetta wrote the script for an episode in the TV show’s second season– and the props department included a clever cameo of her 2009 Printz Award winning novel, Jellicoe Road in the hands of the main character. Definitely a squee-worthy moment for any YA lit fan in the know.
And now I’m off to practice my pirouettes and my Australian accent.
-Allison Tran, currently reading The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater