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Throwback Thursday - Dance Academy - Graceland

Header - Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

Some of you may have been burned by the less than stellar attempts at "ballet shows" that we've seen recently /cough/ Tiny Pretty Things /cough/, but I trust that you won't let that bad experience mar all the other existing possibilities, and namely, this little gem of a show: Dance Academy. Sure, it's no "teen prestige" drama à la Normal People, but if you're in the mood for a wholesome, feel good, funny little show, it's definitely worth the watch. Plus, it's just 3 seasons (and a movie! Which nicely ties in storylines about your future faves), and it's set in Sydney, so you also get all those crush-worthy Australian accents, in a neat little package (held together with ballet ribbons of course).
I'll admit, I originally started this show (years after it aired) because I've been told several times that I (very slightly) resemble Xenia Goodwin (who plays Tara) and in a fit of narcissistic "what would it be like to see myself (kind of) in a show" I just had to watch. It all worked out though, since it's become a favorite (and not just because of that reason, although Tara's style did give me some hairstyle inspo, which was a lovely bonus!)

Two households, both alike in dignity: in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean...

Onto this episode in particular: set in the middle of season 3, "Graceland" takes place as most of the third year students set off on a little tour, dancing both Romeo & Juliet and a contemporary piece choreographed by none other than Abigail (Dena Kaplan)'s former Barcelona flame: Wes Cooper (Andrew Lees). Insufferable Grace (Isabel Durant) and The Benster Ben (Thomas Lacey) have been cast as Rom and Jul, while Tara (Xenia Goodwin), Abigail, Ollie (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Christian (Jordan Rodrigues) have smaller roles (this episode is worth it just to see Christian in a nurse get up, honestly) and Tara is the contemporary piece's lead. Kat (Alicia Banit) meanwhile, has been cast as the lead in an 80s movie, which leaves her back in Sydney, facing her very first day on set.

It's kind of a shame that Grace is the one narrating this episode since I, um, can't stand her (nor can anyone else, it seems. There's a reason she wasn't in the movie that followed the series, no one cared what happened after she kept betraying everyone). However, it makes for a fun little bubble episode that starts playfully with everyone on the tour bus, working out how far they can push (long standing) pranks. One prank in particular, the "Dawn Challenge", which basically consists in running naked, picking up 3 items of clothing, and taking a selfie in front of a fountain, has been banned by Zach, which makes it all the more appealing to the gang. Zach, however, is unamused by his dancers' not so professional attitudes and threatens to recast every single role, meaning no one is safe, not even (gasp!) the leads. When the bus finally arrives to that day's motel, they're met with a particularly unfriendly, but inadvertently hilarious manager, who harbors an unbridled passion for...fish. Yes, fish. In her defense, Grace is actually bearable in this episode (for the most part), and when Zach fails to woo Madam Trout, she steps in to save the day.
«Some call me... the fish whisperer»
I'd like to point out that for a few seconds there I thought the "rooms aren't booked" conundrum was going to lead us down fanfic trope #458: two people to a room! You know who would benefit from being stuck in a room together so they can finally talk, though? Wes and Abigail. One day, I'd really like a montage (or even better, a spin off) of Abigail's adventures in Barcelona with former heartbreaker Ethan, but for now, this will have to suffice. Evidently, Abigail's grief and guilt over Sammy (Thom Green) are still (understandably) overwhelming her. Admitting that she liked and fell for someone else, from a different setting, where she herself could be more free, is difficult to come to terms with, and she'd rather ignore it even if it leads to more unhappiness. As the day goes on, Abigail doesn't only ignore Wes's attempts at reconnecting with her, she ostentatiously tries to make him jealous, and it works. Sidenote: Abigail is such a Monica, when she stormed out of the spin the bottle game because Ben broke all the rules to find himself in a dare with Christian, her type-A personnality really shone through (and I don't blame her).
Back in Sydney, Kat is (as per usual) making a complete mess of things on her first day on the movie set. It started pretty well, with her nailing the rehearsal for her first scene, but it's all downhill from there. Being late? Check. Forgetting to turn off her cellphone? Check. Ruining the same scene approximately 389 times? Check. Getting on the prickly assistant director Jamie's nerves, yelling at him, and almost getting him fired? Check, check, check. Granted, she was right to call him out about terrorizing the extras, but Kat being The Talent doesn't give her a free pass to being a brat. As it turns out, Jamie was nervous about his first day, and as it often does with management (if he can be called that), he dealt with his nerves by projecting onto other people. Not great, Jamie, but your apology was okay(ish). Don't ask me why, but I spent the entire episode thinking he was actually called Travis, which made for difficult Googling when I was looking for his actual job title.
Zach having made good on his threat to recast Romeo and Juliet, Tara and Christian suddenly find themselves with the very real possibility of having to dance it in front of the audience. Christian, who is having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that Tara and Ben are actually a thing now, initially tries to mend bridges with her by asking her to rehearse the pas de deux. It doesn't go over well however, since Tara (rightfully) feels like Christian completely shut her out after he took off during the summer break, and she claims that she no longer wants to be his friend, let alone anything else.
- We should grab some time to go over the pas de deux.
- We're understudies. I already know Juliet, Ben and I rehearsed it.
- It won't be useful if *I* get bumped up to Romeo.
Tara would rather sacrifice a harmonious performance rather than dance with Christian again, so clearly things are going well in ballet-land. But based on the look on her face when she watched Abigail kiss Christian compared to when she kissed Ben (during spin the bottle, not out of nowhere!), Tara isn't being completely honest with herself, let alone Christian. But if Tara is being distant, it's nothing compared to how Ben is acting. There's always been a kind of tacit rivalry between him and Christian, but this episode really highlights how insecure Ben feels. What's weird, is that he's the one to instigate most of the posturing, and when he forces the bottle to land on Christian, his mastermind idea is to actually take part in the Dawn Challenge. Winner takes it all: they get the Romeo role. Which, as Tara (or T-Web, as Ben calls her... no comment) astutely points out, is only a victory for Christian, Ben already has the role.

(Unsurprising) Contestant #3 is, you'll have guessed, Grace herself. She's trying so hard to make friends and be the life of the party, it's almost endearing but not quite enough to erase her past behavior. While both boys take off stark naked, Grace grabs Christian's fallen towel (and his dignity) and follows suite. After several detours to pick up (or, in some cases, get thrown) 3 items of clothing, all three of them end up at the fountain, where, hilariously, there's a little sign banning ballet dancers from approaching. Interestingly enough, Grace and Ben make it there first (Ben's outfit is something to behold: a wild looking dress covered by some kind of woolly jumper, accessorized with quite fetching farm boots), but the Trout Whisperer and a policeman, used to these ballet dancer pranks, are fast approaching. This newly virtuous Grace sacrifices herself, in order to let Ben escape, and gets caught. Christian, sporting an attractive yellow safety vest, shorts, and leather ankle boots, takes a selfie before inching back towards Ben, who's running towards the victory line. In a fit of not very fairplay attitude, Christian trips Ben and... wins.
Thanks to this little feat (and, well, Grace getting arrested), Christian and Tara are now dancing Romeo and Juliette, and rehearsing the pas de deux. Now, I'm not saying I picked this specific episode because of this scene, but I'm not saying I didn't, either. Ben's funny, and sweet, and a great friend, but Christian and Tara have the kind of chemistry that's hard to ignore, even when they're not together.
- I didn’t mean it, earlier. About us not being friends.
- That’s OK. Romeo and Juliet weren’t friends.
Tara and Christian's relationship never really felt over, and when they start dancing together it's clear to everyone that they're far from done with each other. Special mention to the song here: Walk With Me by Elle Skies, which is lovely, heartbreaking, and perfect for this moment. The look on Ben's face as he watches them dance really says it all: he might have Tara for now, but she's lying to herself and everyone else, including him.
The moment is unfortunately interrupted by Grace, escorted by the police, who gets kicked off the tour and switches from fun, pleasant Grace, back to bitchy, bratty Grace in 2 seconds flat. Ben is the only one who seems to care even a little that she's being made to leave, confirming that no one else was fooled by her little act. All in all, it's a delightful little episode, with just the right amount of humor and relationship drama. This makes me want to watch the whole show again, and I may just do that. What did you guys think? As usual, sound off in the comments!

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