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Graphic Novel Review: To Dance – A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel

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To Dance is one of the most beautiful, evocative and stunning pieces of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It’s as elegant and graceful as the ballet it tells about. Husband and wife Siena Cherson Siegel and illustrator Mark Siegel have teamed up to produce a gorgeous memoir.

To Dance is the heartfelt story of Siena Siegel’s following her dream of becoming a dancer. It begins with the six-year old dreaming of dancing and dance classes while seeing a doctor about her flat feet. The story that follows is a delightful one, with tribute paid to famous ballets, ballet companies, dancers, and everything about the ballet. It is also the story of a mother who supports her daughter in her dreams, who even moves to the U.S. from Puerto Rico so that her daughter can attend the School of American Ballet in New York. There are chapters such as "My First Toe Shoes," "Back to the Barre" and "The Dying Swan."

The story progresses with Siena as she grows older and advances in both her classes and proficiency. Scattered along the way in the story are illustrations of her nursing her aching toes which give a sense of how hard she worked, how hard it is to dance and how much she loves it. I am an Aztec dancer and know just how painful dancing can be, so those little illustrations of Siena bandaging her toes really hit home.

Throughout the book is her love of the dance, her profound respect for other dancers of talent, of the icons of her field like Baryshnikov and George Balanchine. It portrays the feel of what it is like as a dancer to view a ballet as part of an audience. It truly gives the reader an insight on what it is like to be a ballerina. Not only that, but it shows how important it is to follow your dreams and do what you love.

Each illustration by the Mark Siegel eloquently accompanies the writing and captures the grace and beauty of the dance with flowing lines, lovely movements, and a dreamy color palette. I fell in love with the way the chapter names are written on what appears to be a ribbon from a ballet shoe. It’s wonderful. The range of emotions shown on characters' faces is just amazing. The whole book flows like a dance and it's a little uncanny how it almost moves. I was touched by its elegance and mobility. Simply stunning!

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