cover image To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

Siena Cherson Siegel, , illus. by Mark Siegel. . ARRAY(0x20508b8), $9.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-2687-0

Siena Cherson Siegel's autobiographical story will be as inviting to balletomanes as to aspiring ballet dancers. In a credible, youthful voice that conveys both confidence and innocence, she recalls her earliest inspirations to pursue dance, including watching Maya Plisetskaya perform with the Bolshoi Ballet. Mark Siegel (Seadogs ), the author's husband, gracefully portrays this subtle epiphany in a single panel illustration, as young Siena looks directly at readers: "I wanted to be a ballerina." Eventually, she gains acceptance to the School of American Ballet, co-created by George Balanchine to train dancers for his New York City Ballet. The format smoothly connects these milestones with humorous childlike observations. In one series of panels, she comments on the Russian teachers at SAB: "They wore black./ Floors were black./ Doors were black./ I wore green!" The next spread then explains that this green corresponds with a dancer's level. Under Balanchine's direction, Siena danced in Harlequinade , in which Baryshnikov starred, and she watches the ballet from the backstage wings, spying Balanchine or "Mr. B.," as the dancers call him, in the wings opposite her. Later, when Mr. B. dies unexpectedly, the artwork beautifully pays homage, with a shot of his empty place in the wings. Siena leaves the ballet, after a serious injury, to attend college, yet continues to dance ("Dancing fills a space in me"). The graphic novel format allows the Siegels to fluidly balance biographical events with onstage action, capturing both the dancers' movements and their passion. Ages 8-14. (Sept.)