Dancing onto the big screen

Dena Kaplan at the premiere of ‘Dance Academy’. Photo: Yael Brender

AUSTRALIAN actress Dena Kaplan basked in the excitement of the red carpet premiere of the film Dance Academy held in Sydney on the weekend.

The film is based on the successful Emmy-nominated Australian TV series that screened from 2010-13 and featured a group of teenagers who studied at the elite National Academy of Dance.

Dance Academy, which has been in production since 2015, picks up 18 months after the end of the TV series, and follows the dancers as they chase their dreams to the Big Apple.

“I loved every minute of filming,” Kaplan told The AJN. “I’ve been dancing and acting since I was a little kid, so I’m just doing what I love for a job. I have the best job in the world.”

The South-African born Jewish dancer and actor moved to Melbourne in 1996, aged seven. After watching her older sister Gemma-Ashley take dance lessons, she decided to follow suit and trained at dance institutions including The Australian Ballet School, Jane Moore Academy of Ballet and City Dance Centre.

After five small film and television roles including stints on City Homicide and Flight of the Conchords, she landed her first main role as Abigail Armstrong in Dance Academy, performing alongside Xenia Goodwin, Alicia Banit and Tara Morice. 

Kaplan says that going from the small screen to the big screen involved a massive change of pace.

“When you’re filming a series, we have 26 episodes and we shoot for six or seven months and now all of a sudden we’re restricted to three months … So it is intense, sometimes shooting six days a week as well as learning routines.”

Kaplan’s favourite moment from the film is when the cast travelled to New York City to shoot on location. “I think it was a bit of a pinch-me moment, being in New York and standing in the middle of Times Square,” she says.

Kaplan hails from an artistic family – her mother and grandmother were both ballet dancers, her father was a musician and her grandfather was an actor. And a TV show that stars all three Kaplan sisters is currently being workshopped.

Dance Academy opens in cinemas on April 6.

YAEL BRENDER