8 October 2013

DANCE ACADEMY: SEASON 1 REVIEW

AUSTRALIAN DRAMA REVIEW: What? Why is this even happening? This isn't Korean!


So I struggled a little bit with myself about posting this review, because as you can see this is not a Korean drama and as you can also see, this is a Korean Drama Blog.

But this is a show that I have recently become addicted to on an astonishing level and is also a drama that I feel shares a lot of similarities to the Korean Dramas that I love so much, and so might appeal to that same crowd.

But hey, if you can't deal with this because you are a purist I won't blame you! Please skip directly to the next post and ignore this one...... but before you go, take a good look at the picture below........


Boys....Dancing...Romance....Dreams.....Drama.....

Still here?
Awesome!

This show is a little Australian drama set in Sydney, and it is all about dancing. It is cheesy as hell, sweet, dramatic, romantic and filled with all the 'coming of age' drama (and kissing!) you could ever hope for. And it is also populated with a bunch of interesting, flawed, vivacious, naive and rebellious characters. There are bromances, breakups, makeups and the ever elusive true loves, and it is all in the name of ballet!

Oh gosh, I am so hooked on this sweet and sticky show that I could go on forever, but here is the breakdown without giving too much away in case anyone wants to check it out. (can be seen on youtube and also possibly netflix I believe)

Plot:
We start off with that most typical of naive, cheery and cluelessly sweet characters. Tara is young, impressionable and sometimes overwhelmingly annoying in her unabashed openness and cluelessness (though she has never accidentally glued her fingers together so that is a step up at least!).

But even though sometimes you do want to strangle her, you just can't help but root for her as well, which is what makes this wide-eyed country girl so appealing. 
At the beginning of this show Tara moves to the big city to attend the country's most prestigious dance school, Sydney's Ballet Academy, three years of hard work and training that is basically essential for any teenager hoping to one day become a professional ballet dancer.

Basically becoming the most embarrassing person ever from the very first day that she arrives at the academy (right through to the last day of the year as well I assure you), Tara starts to (freaking slooowly) figure out who she is and what she wants.

Along the way she makes frenemy's with the bitchiest girl in school, perfectionist Abigail (also one of the most intriguing and nuanced characters in the show), best mates with both Kat (poor little rich kid turned rebel) and Sammy (sweet, friendly and insightful), as well as experiencing her very own love triangle with the very handsome (to some people's tastes....) Ethan who is beyond perfect (in some people's tastes...) and the dark horse Christian (pictured above), who is screwed up, closed off and totally way more interesting than Ethan.

Also there is a lot of ballet.
I totally have a thing for dance movies which is another reason why I enjoy this show so much, there is basically some dancing in every episode, sometimes ballet, sometimes different modern styles, and to make it even cooler, all the actors and actresses actually do the dancing themselves (because I am pretty sure our local TV can't afford dance doubles....Ha!) which is pretty damn impressive. 

So to sum up this little introduction, check this show out if you like coming of age stories, romance (teen stuff so nothing too racy), cool friendships, fun bromances, interesting and layered characters, or basically just embarrassing cheese dramas which hook you hardcore!






Massive Spoilers Below: First Season reviewed
Rather than go through all the plot lines, I find myself more interested in writing about each character and the different impressions they left on me, starting with of course, Tara herself.



So like I mentioned above, Tara is sometimes quite annoying. She is often all over the place, especially when it comes to the boys in her life and is so adept at embarrassing herself in such intense ways that it is quite cringeworthy. And yet, I really really like her.

I think this is because no matter what embarrassing thing she has done, she never seems to care what other people think of her, she just keeps chugging along and never learns or shuts herself up to the world, always remaining so open and gullible and...... real.

At first I wasn't sure that was a good quality, but I soon came to realise it was. Tara is always herself. She never hides or tries to pretend that she is cooler or better than she is (though I know she wishes she was) and this openness is actually really refreshing.
When someone tells her not to be so open about crushing on a dude at school, she just replies that she likes him so why shouldn't she be honest about how she feels, which actually reminded me a lot of a scene in City Hunter which always stuck with me, when Na Na has just confessed to liking our resident City Hunter only to get rejected cruelly. But instead of being embarrassed and freaking out, she tells herself she did a good job and that liking someone is a good thing, no matter the outcome. Which I think is brave and courageous.
And that is what I liked about Tara. She doesn't play games (intentionally) and she is nice. Being nice is so underrated I always think, because honestly if you have a friend (or partner) what could possibly be better than them being genuinely nice?

And she is so incorrigible, which I also loved. I mean, throughout the first season of this show, Abigail sabotages her in such cruel ways multiple times, and yet as soon as Abigail genuinely and sincerely asks Tara for help with something (to do with family trouble at home) Tara still helps her straight away without thinking about it. Because it would never cross her mind not to.

Now, regarding Tara and the two boys that she spends the whole first season flitting back and forth between....and yes, that is kind of annoying and it is hard to understand why she can't just make up her mind between these two guys but in Tara's defence, she is only fifteen. She is so young, away from home for the first time and making (so many) mistakes. She is unsure of herself and so therefore is also unsure of how she feels which comes across in her wandering feelings between Ethan and Christian.





 I think Tara falls for Ethan at first sight because she thinks he is perfect. He is older, more experienced and dreamy (in some people's tastes) and she begins projecting all her dreams for the future onto him, because she believes he would be the perfect boyfriend for this perfect future she has imagined for herself. 
But what she can't see is that Ethan is arrogant, flighty and quite self-centred (as is Tara too in some ways of course). At the start of this show he has no qualms in embarrassing the stupid little country girl who has begun to follow him around like a lost puppy and my theory is that, at least in the beginning, Ethan only likes Tara because she likes him, and he likes to be liked.

I think he enjoys having someone around him who thinks he is as perfect as he believes himself to be, and when he is rejected by an older woman he was pursuing he immediately turns around and goes for Tara. Because she was there, and because she would help boost his self-esteem.

And yet, once Ethan did begin dating Tara, I think her openness, her refreshing honesty and sweet naivety did make him care for her, and us viewers can see a huge difference in his behaviour from the beginning of the show. He does seem to genuinely care about Tara, though I still stand by the fact that part of her appeal to him is the fact that she is so blindly enamoured by him. 

I thought it was interesting that when Christian asked Tara why she liked Ethan she answered simply, 'Because he is perfect.' I mean come on, who is really perfect? She should like him because he makes her laugh, or try harder, or because she feels comfortable and happy around him, not because he is perfect
And for me that answer really outlined Tara's views of Ethan, he is the perfect idea in her head of what she thinks she wants, this perfect guy whom she can imagine a perfect future with in terms of where she wants to be professionally and personally. She could be a more elegant, cultured and accomplished version of herself with him. 
But that of course means she is not really seeing herself with him.

And I think that is why Ethan does seem to remain close to Tara throughout the season and why she never seems to fully break away from him, even when she doesn't really seem all that interested in him  romantically. She says that he gets the 'dancing' side of her, the side that believes that along with becoming a professional ballerina in the company she will also become a different person too. Someone better and less awkward.  And in Ethan's defence (because I guess I have been attacking him a bit) he does really like Tara, he does fight for her to get the leading role in the end of year production because he does truly believe she has it in her. He pushes her and supports her and sincerely cares for her.





Christian on the other hand is totally different, and his effect on Tara is also totally different. The first time they meet they immediately fight, and Tara is less than enamoured with this rebellious and self-assured guy, and I am pretty sure he isn't all that impressed with her either.

Christian is sure of himself but not cocky, he is talented but not arrogant and he is ambitious and needs to know he can win, but then doesn't need to show off about it or even make anyone else aware of it afterwards. (Actually he is much more screwed up then he originally lets on as well, something that is explored further in later seasons). 
He is not someone far above Tara like Ethan is, either in maturity or age and is more on her level (well maybe he is more mature.....but I think mostly everyone is).

These two start off with major misunderstandings as both judge the other for what they think they are (he thinks she is rich and snobby and she thinks he is mean and prickly...which he is but he has reasons to act like he does) and they fight. 
And I kind of think this is where it started. Because anger is emotion, and emotions connect people, and through their bickering I think they start getting really comfortable with each other, like they can be together without trying too hard to show their good sides, and because they are never trying to impress the other they actually do manage to establish something a little more real.

Christian has a rough upbringing, something very different from the other students at the school. It always struck me while watching this season that really only he and Abigail had real problems. I mean they all have problems and some quite serious (especially at that age when you think everything is the end of the world) but these two characters are actually damaged.

But the cool thing is that Christian solves this for himself by accepting the support of his new friends at the academy, something that Abigail still rails against, meaning her hurt lasts much longer.  For Christian the other kids at the academy become a real family to him, something he has never had before, and they represent a different future for him, something better than he could have ever imagined for himself if circumstances hadn't pushed him into attending the academy. 

And I think this is why he likes Tara. She is also different to anyone he has ever met before, being the hardened city street kid he is. Tara is refreshingly (and embarrassingly) open about what she feels and thinks, and she doesn't judge people and just accepts their faults and flaws without much thought. She is naive due to her country upbringing and her loving family home-life, and represents an easier less complicated way of living, without games or masks or walls. 
Tara is what she is, and for Christian I think that is a pretty unique quality. 

And for Tara, in the same way that being with Ethan gives her this idea of who she wants to be, I feel like Christian shows her who she really is
And that is why, when Tara is still dating Ethan and Christian suddenly begins making moves on her, she just sort of falls into it without meaning to, because she wants to like Ethan, but it is seeing Christian with other girls that makes her crazy jealous, it is with him that she can most be herself and it is him that she is always drawn back towards. 
And also.....just look at him!  He is totally lovely!


And that is why I think they can never quite end things between them, even with all their ridiculous and endless misunderstandings (because it is a drama peoples!), because they are actually completely suited for each other .
(I have only seen season 1 so I can only hope they end up together at the end of season 3. If they don't I might actually shed a little tear).

I think these two are so sweet together and I love all their scenes, even the dumb yelling ones. Not to mention all the kissing ones! 


Gosh this has gone on soooo long (I just love blathering on!) so I will try to be shorter with the last few characters in the unlikely case that someone is actually still reading this completely off topic review.

Basically, everyone else is getting a shorter blurb:




Kat is basically a poor little rich girl, and sometimes she can get really wrapped up in her problems to the extent that she can't see that other people all around her have it so much worse. She doesn't feel loved by her parents, which is certainly a terrible and very real issue, but her reaction to this, being overly rebellious and disrespectful, leads her to throw away something she has always said she hated and was being forced into, but actually possibly really truly loved.
In constantly trying to shock all the adults around her, she is not honest with herself about so many things, including the fact that maybe it is actually Kat herself which has become the biggest obstacle to her own happiness.
One thing I did like was her friends willingness to give her hard words and pull her up if need be, and also of course her total loyalty and love for these same friends. 
I hope for her sake though that in the second season Kat will realise that she is only throwing away her own future by always pretending to be so unaffected by everything and too cool for school in a sense.

It is not embarrassing to care about stuff, something which she could learn from Tara.





Abigail is such an interesting character! I mean she is a total conniving, manipulative bitch who gives the impression of improving all the time only to turn back around and do something completely evil and uncalled for. 
And yet, I never once really hated or even disliked her, because she is layered and real enough to make you care for what lies underneath her cold exterior. I mean, the pressure this girl puts on herself is horrifying and the lengths she goes to, to keep people at arms length is also astounding.

Which makes it all the more beautiful when you see the cracks appear in her perfectly polished veneer, and when in the season finale she actually forces herself to encourage Tara to dance when the country girl is on the verge of a breakdown (due to Abigail being conniving of course) which is actually a moment that is lovely to see.
I always knew the girl had a heart!






Sammy is my lucky last character to talk about, but he is definitely one I really like. 
The main evolution for Sammy during the season is his relationships, and the fact that towards the end of the season he begins to question his own sexuality, which I know a lot of viewers found to be a bit out of the blue.

I have been thinking about it, and I am not sure I agree that it came out of nowhere, because if you examine his past relationships you see that maybe Sammy was pretty unsure of himself all along.
When he arrives at the academy he has a girlfriend who is away overseas, something that Sammy seems perfectly happy about, even though his friends constantly question the existence of this elusive girlfriend.
But when she does turn up to surprise him, a perfect girl in every way, Sammy goes immediately cold, and begins to find himself attracted to the hardest nut to crack in the entire school..... Abigail.

And obviously this takes time, a lot of time. Now I do think that Sammy genuinely liked Abigail and it is not about her consciously being a disguise for his confused feelings or anything, because I just don't think being gay (or Bi) had ever really occurred to him before.
But it is true that as soon as he does get truly close to Abigail, both emotionally and physically, Sammy immediately balks and backs away, because it doesn't 'feel right'. (Poor Abigail, the girl finally opens up a little only to get rejected. So sad!).

And this is when he begins to develop feelings for his roommate Christian. Now these two boys have begun to rely on eachother in a proper way, Christian has never had a friend who has come through for him like Sammy, and Sammy has never had a guy friend before period, so the friendship definitely means a lot to both of them, which is why Samy is so horrified when he starts crushing on Christian (but can you blame him? He is so pretty!).

I thought the scene where Sammy is forced to confess his feelings to Christian in order to avoid making his friend feel like he is unwanted (something that is soooo brave and shows just how much he cares for Christian because he would rather protect Christian and Christian's feelings and dignity here over his own). This confession was done so well and my heart just broke for poor Sammy, it must have been such an excruciating thing to do.

(On a side note, I had a friend once tell me that when he came out after years of pretending to be straight he cried non-stop because he thought his friend who he was confiding in would think he was shameful and never speak to him again. The friend didn't care at all. But it goes to show what a terrifying thing coming out is to a lot of people who don't have support from their friends and family.)

I also loved that what Christian focused on throughout the whole confession was his own anger that Sammy didn't think he could trust him, that he even thought for a moment that Christian would turn away from him, and I loved the scene where they yell at eachother and end up in the ocean, repairing their bromance relationship.
Also, how funny was it when Christian was trying to talk with Sammy about all the 'fit' guys in the locker room, much to Sammy's embarrassment! Ha! 


Also, this show totally has 'Fran' from the most fantastical of all Australian Movies 'Strictly Ballroom' in it! (If you haven't seen that movie made by the same man who did 'Moulin Rouge', 'Romeo & Juliet' and also 'The Great Gatsby' then you should also totally go and check it out right now!)



Whoah! Sorry about the stupidly long review which had nothing at all to do with Korean Drama.
Thanks so much for reading if you still are, and totally go and check out this lovely home-grown TV show if you have't already seen it! :)

















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