MOVIE REVIEW: Dance Academy doesn’t miss any of its steps
THE Dance of the Cygnets might be over-performed, but when Tchaikovsky's famous pas de quatre is well-executed, it still has the capacity to engage.
The same can be said of the "Fame" movie template in which a bunch of talented youngsters overcome both external obstacles and personal demons to shine in their chosen discipline.
Dance Academy: The Movie - in which a ballet company actually performs a segment of Swan Lake on the Sydney Opera House stage - is the latest in a long line of such inspirational dramas.
Director Jeffrey Walker (who cut his teeth on a string of TV series including Modern Family and Jack Irish: Dead Point) doesn't mess around with the proven formula.
Instead, he applies a dancer's rigour to the steps we already know.
The Movie is a spin-off of the two-time Emmy-nominated ABC TV series, watched by a generation of Australian schoolchildren.
It's set 18 months after the events of Series 3, in which the story's narrator, Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin), breaks her back in a freak accident while performing on stage.
Physically, the gifted ballerina has healed. But emotionally, she is still struggling to accept life without dance.
Tara turns to writing as an alternative means of expression.
Her fellow students are merciless, drawing attention to the melodramatic arc of the deeply personal story - defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, and her "Edward Cullen-like" boyfriend (the devoted Christian played by Jordan Rodrigues).
And that's before Ben's (Thomas Lacey) leukaemia returns or Kat (Alicia Banit) becomes embroiled in a phone sex scandal.
Walker exhibits admirable restraint in the face of such potentially overwrought romantic tropes, refusing to milk the emotional moments, encouraging his actors to underplay the key scenes.
The characters' self-deprecating humour also serves the film well.
As does the spectacular backdrop of Sydney Harbour.
Like the TV series, Dance Academy: The Movie is set at Walsh Bay, which of course is the real home of The Sydney Dance Company.
The movie's production values are enhanced by Tara's impulsive decision to relocate to New York, where Kat has scored a job as the fairy in a successful children's TV show.
The studio and Kat's studio-supplied penthouse apartment appear to be located very close to Time Square.
In a film like this, the dance sequences are crucial. The angular, modern sci-fi number created by Miranda Otto's diva works well.
And Tara and Ben's self-choreographed dance routine is strong.
The photographs of the various cast members that accompany the credits - precociously cute child performers every one of them - are a nice final touch.
Dance Academy: The Movie opens on Thursday.
Dance Academy: The Movie
Stars: Xenia Goodwin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Miranda Otto.
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Verdict: 3/5 stars