DanceAcademy2.1coverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  Yes
2011, 325 min. (13 episodes), Color
Unrated (would be PG for mature themes)
New Video
Aspect ratio:  1.78:1
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features:  D+

I frankly don’t know why New Video is marketing the first two seasons of Dance Academy as four separate DVDs, because this teen/’tween series—intelligent enough for adults but still acceptable for younger family members—has a continuing storyline. If you get hooked, you’re going to buy all of the DVDs. And Season 2, like the first, has a definable arc.

The Australian-made half-hour TV drama gets a little soapier the second time around, with a serious injury, divorce, a life-threatening illness, a domineering stage mom, a false claim of sexual harassment, a search for a birth father, and a death all written into the script. In the first half of the season, the emphasis seems more on relationships and personal dramas than on dance, and that can turn off older boys in the family who aren’t into (or who don’t want to appear as if they’re interested in) that sort of thing. Season 2 has lying, backstabbing, and more of an OMG feel to it than the first. But it’s just as addictive. The characters are interesting, the writing is believable, and the direction nothing short of a marvel, if you consider that believable drama develops, unfolds, and plays itself out in effective 22-minute chunks.  

My wife remarked that it’s often the small things she likes about this series, like the way poor dance students tend to rotate the same few outfits rather than sporting new ones all the time. She likes that while the series has some edge to it, Dance Academy still is tame by American TV standards, with parents portrayed sensitively instead of played up as clueless fools or buffoons.

I like how fluid the characters seem to be, how someone you pegged as harsh softens a bit, or those who seem flat-out evil show a mellower side. But in Season 2 the producers introduce a more traditional nemesis—a conniving, do-anything-to-advance-her-career little monster who transferred from the Royal Ballet School in London. Grace (Issi Durant) is also the godchild of the National Dance Academy headmistress, Miss Raine (Tara Morice), and that complicates things. She’s balanced by a goofy new clas-clown sort of dancer appropriately named Ben Tickle (Thomas Lacey).

DanceAcademy2.1screenIn Season 2, a brash group of first-years declares war on the second-year students at this exclusive live-in school for dance, and everyone is working hard on trying out for the Prix de Fonteyn, an international competition that will be held in Sydney later in the season. Everything builds toward the event, and this season teacher Zach (Kip Gamblin) tends to challenge students like Glee’s Mr. Schuester with assignments that have them doing things like making it through the day being tethered to their dance partner.

This season Kat (Alicia Banit) investigates other possibilities for her talent, and Abigail (Dena Kaplan) learns that she might have just as much passion for music theater as she does for ballet. Christian (Jordan Rodrigues) continues to brood over all-Australian girl Tara (Xenia Goodwin), who looks to an injured company dancer (Brooke Harman) as a mentor. Ethan (Tim Pocock) defies his choreographer father and decides to strike out on his own, and Sammy (Tom Green), who may have found the perfect relationship in Ollie (Keiyan Lonsdale), decides he’s had enough of being the one that his teachers continue to write off. Their work ethic and their obvious caring for each other are all positive values that anchor them as they endure whatever trials that life (and the writers) throw at them.

Season 2 is a little darker than the first, but it’s still fairly wholesome and just as solid.