To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

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Overview

Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.

To Dance tells and shows the fullness of her dreams and her rhapsodic life they led to. Part family history, part backstage drama, here is an original, firsthand book ...

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To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

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Overview

Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.

To Dance tells and shows the fullness of her dreams and her rhapsodic life they led to. Part family history, part backstage drama, here is an original, firsthand book about a young dancer's beginnings — and beyond.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Snow Wildsmith
"Big, empty spaces always made me dance. A long hallway or a parking lot just begged for dance . . . like it wanted to be filled . . . and I wanted to put dance in it." This book is the story of every little girl who ever longed to put on a pair of pointe shoes. From the time Siena was six and her mother casually mentioned the possibility of dance, ballet slowly began to be the most important thing in her life. To realize her dance dreams, her family moved from Puerto Rico to New York City, where Siena was accepted as a student in the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet's training ground. She studied there until she was eighteen, and a serious ankle injury helped her decide to head to college instead of to a career as a professional ballerina. A beautifully written memoir, this book is also a stunningly well-illustrated graphic novel. The soft yet detailed pictures perfectly complement the carefully chosen words. The story is real, with both the good and bad points of a life dedicated to ballet clearly illuminated. Although the publisher is marketing it as a title for ages eight to twelve, it is much more an all-ages book. Younger middle school students will enjoy the glimpse into a specific time in the life of both a dancer and of the New York City Ballet, and older balletomanes will appreciate the opportunity to reminisce with Siegel. It is a highly recommended purchase for all libraries.
Kirkus Reviews
For so many dancers, it's the magic of a performance that captures their spirit and fuels a dream. For the author, it was seeing the legendary Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya in a performance of The Dying Swan. Reading Krementz's A Very Young Dancer (1976, o.p.) was also highly motivational. She moved from her home in Puerto Rico to become a student at the School of American Ballet in New York City and danced onstage in children's roles with the New York City Ballet during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when ballet was hot stuff indeed. The graphic format for her memoir works perfectly, encapsulating the many details of rehearsal, performance and home life. Her parents' bitter divorce gives the narrative a poignant edge. The writing is direct and personal, informative and engaging. Siegel's artwork brilliantly captures ballet movement, the luminaries of the time and the daily life of a dancer. A bravura performance by author and illustrator that will be read and reread and treasured by ballet lovers of all ages. (Graphic novel. 10+)
From the Publisher
"The familiar tale of a young dancer's progress takes on a newly poignant aura by being translated into the unexpectedly appropriate medium of the graphic novel."

— Terry Teachout, author of All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine

"I treasure the marriage of these lovable pictures with the humble story of becoming a ballerina. I believe that with this book, the number of ballet lovers will grow."

— Maya Plisetskaya, prima ballerina, Bolshoi Ballet

"To Dance is a beautiful portrait of the magical world of dance, and an even more beautiful portrait of a young girl growing up. A must-read for all dreamers who discover themselves. Brava, Siena!"

— Peter Boal, artistic director, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and former principal dancer, New York City Ballet

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416926870
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/5/2006
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 465,667
  • Age range: 8 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Siegel was inspired by Cynthia Rylant's melodious homage to moonlit nights to take many long walks with only the full moon as his guide. The wonderfully atmospheric illustrations in Long Night Moon reflect many of the things he discovered on those nocturnal hikes. An up-and-coming visual artist and an aspiring author, Mark spends his days designing books for children. His first book, Lisa Wheeler's Seadogs, was published earlier this year. He lives with his wife, Siena, in New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A sweet, personal history of ballet in New York for a young dancer

    To Dance tells the familiar story of a young girl, in this case Siena when she was a child, who wants to grow up to be a ballerina. She starts ballet lessons, shows a real talent, and makes it to New York City where she trains in a feeder school for a big ballet company, in this case New York City Ballet's School of American Ballet, where she is discovered. Mark Siegel's illustrations allow the reader to share in Siena's wonder and sometimes confusion with this whole new world in which she finds herself. He is also a kind of translator for the "uninitiated" in ballet lore and jargon, providing illustrations and examples of being en pointe and or dancing a pas de deux to name a few. For this reason, the format of the graphic novel works very well here. It elevates the reading level beyond that of a picture book without wordy explanations that detract from the story. Those who are more familiar with ballet will find the illustrations amusing and beautiful with gorgeous renditions of the varying levels of ballet classes and some "cameo appearances" of the big names of the New York City Ballet in the 1970's to early 1980's.

    This basic story has been told many times. Two examples that jump out from my reading history are Ballerina Dreams, an easy reader by New York City Ballet's Diana White and Gelsey Kirkland's only-for-grown-ups memoir, Dancing on My Grave. The big difference between these books and To Dance, aside from format, is that even those well-versed in the recent and current ballet world will not recognize the name Siena Cherson Siegel; she is not a ballerina. As chronicled in this graphic novel, Siegel dances in a few performances with the New York City Ballet in pre-professional roles, but then goes on to attend college at Brown and dance for her own enjoyment rather than dance professionally. The ending to this story is very rarely told, though much more common. To Dance emphasizes how dance can mold one's life while at the same time, showing how Siena takes the time to be a "normal" kid as well as positively showing her choice not to dance professionally. By sharing her story in To Dance, Siegel is affirming anyone who wants to use anything that they are talented at or simply enjoy as a hobby, an enjoyment, rather than a career choice. For this reason, along with the beauty of the illustrations and Siegel's writing, I highly recommend this book.


    Book source: Birthday present, years ago, from Nanna. :)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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