Dance Life Series
“Dance Life is not just about the dance; it’s a series steeped in human experience.”
Review by Chris Duncan
“Dance Life”, the latest offering from Amazon Prime, emerges as a captivating and exhilarating docu-series that masterfully delves into the vibrant and often tumultuous world of full-time training in dance. Set against the backdrop of Sydney’s prestigious Brent Street Studios, this series is a tapestry of passion, perseverance, and raw talent, woven together with a flair that only true artistry can achieve.
This series is a kaleidoscope of dreams, struggles, and triumphs, impeccably brought to life by the Creative Directors and Producers Luke Cornish and Jade Barnes, whose visionary storytelling captures the essence of the dance world with both intimacy and grandeur.
At the heart of “Dance Life” are its compelling characters, filled with dedication and ambition. The series shines a spotlight on this array of remarkable dancers and resonates deeply with the struggles and victories inherent in pursuing a dream.
Max S, a dedicated and long-standing student at Brent Street, embodies the spirit of perseverance. His journey from a hopeful student to a featured performer is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Whilst always knowing he wanted to dance as a career from a very young age, he also wonders what he would do if he didn’t dance – something he can’t imagine. His assistance with elevating boyfriend Connor’s ability and skill is heart-warming and we see into the personal struggles they face with revealing their relationship to some family members.
Max O, with his formidable talent and introspective nature, brings a depth to the series, offering a glimpse into the solitary and sometimes lonely dedication required in dance. He is clearly one of the most capable dancers within the group but struggles ‘opening up’ to others so spends much time alone practicing his craft. His ability is awe-inspiring but he is also challenged by his shorter stature which it is thought may limit his opportunities as a male dancer in the future. During the full-time dance year he is invited to perform on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and his experience inspires him to want to return one day to work in the US professionally.
Tiana, the trusted lead dancer, epitomizes resilience. She has had to work extremely hard on her technique and ability across many years to be ‘noticed’ and now, at full-time, is considered an asset to the group. Her story of triumph after years of being overlooked as a front-row dancer and of overcoming a severe foot injury throughout the full-time year, coupled with her unwavering determination to perform at Graduation, is nothing short of inspiring. It’s a poignant reminder of the physical and emotional rigors that dancers endure in their quest for perfection.
Arabella, juggling her aspirations in musical theatre with her role as a podium dancer and her innate ability to infuse passion into her every move, adds a layer of versatility and ambition, showcasing her journey towards becoming a ‘triple threat.’ Arabella is cast as the ‘wise one’, understanding the benefit of training to be as employable as she can, while also holding the position as the compassionate friend – especially to Archer which is heart-warming.
Emily‘s transformative arc, from a background of adversity and trauma to a confident and celebrated dancer, is portrayed with sensitivity and depth, highlighting the redemptive power of dance and a great set of grandparents! Her story is a testament to the power of dance as a transformative force, offering hope and a sense of belonging even in the darkest of times.
Archer’s story adds a rich texture to the series, offering a poignant perspective on the complexities faced by non-binary dancers in a traditional art form. Archer faces particular challenges during the filming year of ‘DanceLife’ and wonder where they will ‘fit’ in the professional world after graduation. Bravery – amidst what might otherwise be considered a confusing experience – is an asset that Archer exhibits in spades and we can’t help but fall in love with the tenacity of this inspiring human.
Erin‘s undeterred sassy spirit and her capacity to navigate the pressures of the dance world add another intriguing layer to the narrative as she sashays through her full-time year, completely expectant of becoming one of the ‘lucky ones’ to ‘make it’ as a professional dancer. Her straight-talking realism is refreshing, at times sobering, and lends an element of humour to the production.
Kim struggles with self-image at the start – but not in a way you would expect. As a gorgeous model her looks have already taken her far. What she craves is a chance to prove that her dance talent matches her beauty. Her inner struggle and determination to reach the highest level underpin the dichotomy of her experience.
At the helm of this extraordinary group is Cassie Bartho, the lead teacher, whose tough-love approach and insightful mentorship are pivotal in shaping these dancers’ journeys. Her dynamic teaching style, balancing rigor with compassion, is a cornerstone of the series and she triumphs as the true star of this production.
Lucas Newland, the owner and managing director of Brent Street Studios, is the guiding force behind this bastion of dance. His decision to collaborate with Amazon Prime, after turning down numerous other media opportunities, speaks volumes of his vision for showcasing the world of dance authentically.
Luke Cornish and Jade Barnes, as the creative minds behind the series, have masterfully woven the individual stories of these dancers into a cohesive and compelling narrative. Their ability to capture the essence of each dancer’s journey, along with the day-to-day life at the studio, makes “Dance Life” a ground-breaking series in the world of dance documentaries.
“Dance Life” is not just about the dance; it’s a series steeped in human experience. It’s about the inner battles, the personal triumphs, and the unrelenting drive that fuels these dancers. The series, with its rich narrative and emotive storytelling, invites viewers into a world where every leap is laden with hope, and every fall is a lesson in resilience.
With its artful cinematography and thoughtful direction, “Dance Life” is a visual feast, offering up-close and intimate glimpses into the lives of its characters. The series is an emotional rollercoaster, brimming with moments of tearful breakdowns, exuberant triumphs, and everything in between.
The show promises to immerse viewers in a world where every pirouette and leap is laden with passion, every setback is a step towards growth, and every performance is a narrative in itself. It’s a series that not only showcases the physicality of dance but also its profound ability to touch lives, heal wounds, and inspire dreams.