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Dance Academy's Xenia Goodwin reveals behind-the-scenes secrets

Xenia Goodwin has opened up about her experience on the popular Aussie teen-drama series Dance Academy and revealed fascinating insights that fans might not know about.

12 years on from the show’s premiere, the 28-year-old spoke candidly with Yahoo Lifestyle about her audition process, her relationship with the cast, behind-the-scenes secrets and what she’s doing now.

Dance Academy cast.
Xenia Goodwin (centre) has opened up about her time on Dance Academy 12 years on from the show’s premiere. Photo: ABC

What was your audition process like?

I can't tell you exactly how many rounds there were, but it was a lot of rounds. At the time I had just moved to do full-time dancing with Tanya Pearson’s classical coaching. She made everybody at the studio audition for Dance Academy for experience because she said everybody needs to do every audition in every kind of light they could possibly ever do to feel the rejection or the difficulty of it and just get better and better at it. And in my head, I was never going to be good enough to be in it.

I remember Sam Strauss, the writer, she was sitting there and I had to do a move, like bring out a trick, and I was epically ballet. Like, there was no hip hop, there was nothing, I couldn't do anything. I was 14 years old at the time and I pulled out the disco [dance moves] across the floor in front of hundreds of people, which was a very Tara thing to do.

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What was it like transitioning from ballet to filming?

When you're filming you're not training, and for dancing, it’s constant training, eight hours a day, weekends, all that sort of stuff. So it was really interesting because I actually had to act the ability to be able to dance by the end of the season and then go back to ballet and get really good at it again and do the same thing over and over. So that was what makes it really interesting because I loved it so much, but my character wasn't supposed to be very good. So I was practising over and over and over and over again the wrong way to do things.

Tara starts off and she's like, there's something there but she's not great, from the country. And I'm good at that point because we've just started, like I'm very technically astute. And so by the end of filming the season, I'm supposed to be better, but I'm actually worse because I've been practising wrong.

Dance Academy cast.
‘By the end of filming the season I'm supposed to be better, but I'm actually worse because I've been practising wrong.’ Photo: ABC

What was your first day of filming like?

There's a lot of the very beginning of it that I don't remember because in my head I'm going, “I can't do this”. You’ve got all of these people that are depending on you, crew and cast, to be good and not screw it up. And so the first probably couple of weeks, there are moments and flashes, but it was almost an out-of-body experience because I just had to pretend that I can do this outwardly, and inwardly I'm going, “Oh god, swear word, swear word, swear word, swear word, swear word”.

What was your relationship like with the cast then and now?

Every single one of the people that I worked with, we’re still family. All of us. I ran into Tim Pocock the other day, Dena [Kaplan] I text her at least once a week sort of thing, Alicia [Banit] is doing amazing things. We are actually the anomaly to the rule, we are actually like a family.

When I look back, they boosted me… It was such a supporting almost like sisterly and brotherly [connection], and I was an only child. We did well together.

What stands out to you when you look back on your Dance Academy experience?

The dedication it taught me. So I had that already a little bit with the ballet, like you have to work very, very, very hard, but it's another level because those hours are ridiculous when you're in almost every scene. Now in normal work and anything else that I do, I'm so grateful to Dance Academy and what it did for me because I can do it.

And then the other thing is really corny. It really showed me the depths of love. These people are family, that's the biggest gift in the world.

What was it like saying goodbye to the show?

I couldn't cope. I thought I would cope, but you spend so much time with these people, more than you do with your outside friends or family at home. The realisation when they call cut caught on the very last take, it actually doesn't hit you until that point that you're not coming into work on Monday and seeing everyone, and it's a grief process. Having experienced some of those things in my real life now, I do equate it to grieving for a life that you’re no longer living.

But then it all comes out and then it's a whole other ballgame and then that's all really weird. It’s like you experience it again and you’re like, I've just gotten over this, I’ve just worked through not doing this anymore and now everybody else is talking about it and I have to think about it again!

Dance Academy cast.
‘These people are family, that's the biggest gift in the world.’ Photo: ABC

Any behind-the-scenes moments that fans might not know?

Anybody who's a fan would definitely remember the scene where Sammy doesn’t… Thom Green is still alive for everybody that does ask the question, that was absolutely acting. Kat (played by Alicia Banit) wasn’t supposed to cry, Tara wasn’t supposed to really. When that scene happened, Abigail (played by Dena Kaplan) is in the shower. Those were real tears. It usually is when you're acting, it comes from a very real place, but because of the realness of what she was feeling, none of us could hold it together. No one can hold it together in those sorts of circumstances and you're supposed to be acting like somebody who's not actually physically able to feel emotion and I'm like, “I can’t stop!”.

How did you react to Sammy’s death?

Very real, because he actually was leaving the show. So it was literally like losing him really in real life. When that got written in, I wanted to punch Sam Strauss. I understand why she chose that particular character, it had to be. For the emotion that needed to come across, it needed to be that shocking. It was really real because then he wasn't working with us anymore.

What do you think made the show so iconic?

Sam Strauss wrote a series. I don't think that it had actually ever been done in children's TV yet, in Australia at least, where she tackled things that usually wouldn’t be able to get on the air for kids, for young teens, for all that sort of stuff, but are so important to be talked about and so important for parents to be able to broach with their kids and all that sort of stuff because we're all experiencing things. It doesn't matter what age you are, all that stuff happens... The writing was out of this world.

How did you find out about the Dance Academy film?

I found out that we were doing the film and no one had told me. I found out because it was released publicly, and so there was an article and my name wasn’t in it or anything. It was just like, ‘Dance Academy funded for a film’. I found out about this at the same time that the rest of the world has found out about this, nothing’s mentioned of my name, so I was certain that I’d been recast. And everybody was coming up to ask me about it. So for a little period there, I don't know how long it was, it might have been two days, I didn't say anything. I was just like, “Alright then, fine, whatevs!”. I thought I’d been recast! I thought I was fired before we did the film.

Dance Academy movie poster.
‘I thought I was fired before we did the film.’ Photo: Screen Australia

What are you doing now?

I'm working for a developer and builder doing masterplan communities and stuff like that… I really enjoy it. I had a bit of a rough patch there that some people might know about and some people maybe don’t. I had a pretty big car accident and stuff like that, and so I ended up having to move and change my life and do a lot of rehab for a very long time. And during that point in time, I had said to mum, “Maybe we should move out of here, renting is ridiculous”. This was during the Covid period - I’d already been locked down anyway, Covid didn't affect me so I was lucky, I was like, “Hey everybody, join my pain”. But we moved out and bought a house and I watched what it did to her and went, I want to do that for people like first home buyers or families and stuff like that.

I am kind of ready to hopefully get back into a little bit of acting stuff. It’s been a bit of a wild ride, but I want to get back to doing that now. I’m fully recovered, I’ve got a lot of scars, but that’s what you’ve got make-up for! Stay tuned.

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