Friday, December 01, 2006
To Dance: a ballerina's graphic novel, a memoir by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siegel, 2006
Bluebonnet award winner, Mark Siegel has teamed with his wife Siena Cherson Siegel and created an exquisite and tender graphic novel that honors dancers everywhere.
Siena began her dance journey in San Juan, Puerto Rico when she was diagnosed with flat feet. She started dance classes and fell in love with the art form. The story follows her family as they move to Boston where she sees the Bolshoi Ballet perform for the first time. She dreams of ballets.
At the age of 11 she auditions and wins a spot in the School of American Ballet and begins to work in earnest. She sees George Balanchine and Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, and Gelsey Kirkland in the halls. Being fitted for her first toe shoes, winning a spot in her first performance and partnering class are all milestones in her life at SAB. Family life is difficult as her parents' marriage fails. As a teenager there are boyfriends and schoolwork and worry about the shape of her body.
Plots of ballets are seamlessly woven into the story as we see the excitement and glamor of performance balanced with the hard work of practice and the heartbreak of not being chosen to perform. Her memoir also allows the reader an inside look at the grief and sorrow that overwhelmed the company when Balanchine died.
Mark Siegel draws the story with detail and love. To depict a story like this in graphic novel form allows the reader to move through the years with Siena. The reader notes the change of color of her leotard as the years pass, each color representing a higher level at SAB. Her painful injuries and aching toes from hours of dancing are communicated without words.
One scene where young Siena is reading the book A Very Young Dancer by flashlight is typical of the care and detail the Siegels have included. I think every school library has that book as it is a favorite with young dancers. Like the girl on the cover, Siena will wear the green leotard.
Siegel opens the story with little Siena dancing on a beach. He ends it on a beach too and it brought tears to my eyes. This is sophisticated storytelling at its very best.
Words to describe this book: Brilliant, fascinating, informative, original, beautiful, a must have for all ballet students, dancers, and fans of ballet
This copy is already being covered in Christmas wrap for the dancer in our family. I just HAD to read it first.
Now, off to the post office to mail it.