TO DANCE - Reviews
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***FOUR STAR REVIEWS!***
  Starred Review in October 2006 Publisher's 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 watched 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 at 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 Siegel's to fluidly balance biographical events with onstage action, capturing both the dancers' movements and their passion."
  Starred Review in 9/1/06 issue of Kirkus
"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 1970's and early 1980's, 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 as a dancer. A bravura performance by author and illustrator that will be read and reread and treasured by ballet lovers of all ages."
  Starred Review in 7/1/06 Booklist
"A husband and wife team up to provide an insightful, accessible, and aesthetically engaging graphic novel that follows the latter's dance career. Well proportioned watercolor panels trace Siena Cherson Siegel's involvement with ballet from her introduction to it at the age of six and her training as an adolescent at the School of American Ballet to her leaving professional dance when she reached college and her return to it several years later, 'because I still needed to dance.' The fully realized account goes beyond the sacrifices and rewards she experienced to other matters, such as the effects of her parents' separation and divorce and her awe of ballet master George Balanchine. As a girl, Siena discovered Jill Krementz's photo-essay A Very Young Dancer (1976), but unlike that portrait of a girl ballerina, this one is in no way glamorized. Mark Siegel's images are often pretty, but like the story his wife tells, they are honest about a ballerina's life. Foot pain, leg injuries, and more are a part of Siena's story, which provides those who hope for or wonder about dancing as a career with a candid view of an individual for whom ballet is essential to a fulfilling life."

To Dance named a "Top Ten in Youth Art Books" in the Nov. 1, 2006 issue of Booklist.

  Starred Review in November 2006 issue of School Library Journal
"Siegel was born to dance. At age six, she began to take lessons in Puerto Rico. When her family moved to Boston, she continued to study ballet and was totally inspired when she saw a performance by Maya Plisetskaya of the Bolshoi Ballet. When she was accepted at the American School of Ballet, her family moved to New York. While she was a student, she performed in numerous ballets of George Ballanchine. Her promising future came to an end at the age of 18 when she suffered a serious ankle injury. However, rather than focusing on this disappointment, Siegel notes that she went on to college and later began dancing again because, "Dancing fills a space in me." The graphic format works well. The illustrations and story line blend together to create a pleasing whole. The watercolor-and-ink illustrations introduce a theme of fluidity and movement through undulating ribbons like those on a ballerina’s slippers. Through one dancer’s experiences during the 1970s and ’80s, readers are introduced to an important period in the world of ballet and are given an inspiring message about the dedication required to become a ballerina."

To Dance selected in SLJ Best Books of 2006
Horn Book
Review in November/December 2006 issue of Horn Book
"Cliché deems that every little girl dreams of being a ballerina. The reality is that ballet requires strength, endurance, grace, commitment, and passion. This memoir follows one girl's journey into dance in the 1970s. As Siena matures from a delighted nine-year old to a driven high school student, she progresses from taking classes to correct flat feet to attending the School of American Ballet in New York City. Absorbing every aspect of dance like a sponge, she bumps into Baryshnikov in the elevator and studies performances across the wings from director George Balanchine. Both narrative and images in this nimble graphic memoir are filled with enthusiasm and humor, chronicling Siena's strongest memories with palpable energy and enjoyment. To Dance is a coming-of-age story rich with details of ballet's modern history as well as a portrait of one girl, her family, and the hard work it took to make her dream a reality. —ROBIN BRENNER"
***IN THE PRESS***
Review in 10/7/06 the Globe and Mail

The graphic form of this novel, a.k.a. comic strip, makes for easy but not inconsequential reading. In fact, it seems an altogether fitting medium for the fragmentary yet important formative moments in a young dancer's life, and it's a novel way of presenting an oft-told tale of infatuation with the world of dance as well as dance itself. The medium may be novel and the book may be called a novel, but it is actually Siena Cherson Siegel's memoir of her life as a dancer, a life that begins in Puerto Rico when, as a young girl, she is told that she has flat feet. Her doctor dismisses the notion that ballet might help to develop arches, and in that moment, a moment of defiance against the doctor's verdict, a dancer is born. Classes begin, first in Puerto Rico, then in Boston and, ultimately, at Balanchine's School of American Ballet in New York. A passion for ballet is cemented when Siena watches a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet. Comic strips they may be, but the memoir's captivating watercolour and ink drawings carry Siegel's affecting story forward with élan.

Review in 11/12/06 the Houston Chronicle

I'm always on the lookout for books that break new ground in style and structure. "To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel" by Siena Cherson Siegel, illustrated by her husband, Mark Siegel, is just such a book.

The publishing world has come full circle. In recent years children's beloved comic books have been elevated into a serious adult art form. Now comes this serious and moving graphic text that recounts the author's fascination with dance, her rise to the stage of the New York City Ballet and the early end to her career after the death of her mentor, George Balanchine, a serious ankle injury and her decision to enter college.

She revisits, through the evocatively drawn panels, the books, movies and live performances that have sent so many young girls back to their rooms to imagine themselves into Baryshnikov's arms. The difference is that Siegel is willing to pay the price of lost childhood, seven-day-a-week rehearsal schedules and endless pain, trade-offs she makes willingly in return for the intoxicating rewards of performance.

The narrative and illustrations unfold along the ribbon strands that link the pages visually. In the background we learn of family relocations, sibling relationships and parental discord, to remind us this is no fairy tale.

Girl readers will fall in love with this graphic representation of the dreams so many of them have shared, but I would hope that boy readers will see in it a new form through which they can represent their own experiences.

Review in 11/9/06 the Toronto Star

To Dance is a story about a girl named Siena who lives in Puerto Rico. Siena sees an ad for dancing classes and she really wants to try dancing so her mom signs her up for ballet. Siena does very well in ballet and becomes addicted to it.

As time goes on, her family takes Siena to see the Bolshoi Ballet in Boston, and after the wonderful performance Siena's every wish is to become a real ballerina.

In order to fulfill her dreams, Siena signs up for more ballet classes including weekend classes. The classes pay off when she gets a chance to perform in the Nutcracker live show. But it doesn't end here. Siena gets an opportunity to go to New York for a private audition at the School Of American Ballet (SAB for short). You guessed it, she gets accepted and her family moves to New York.

Siena meets a wonderful new teacher, Madame Tumkovsky, who is tough but helps all of her students, including Siena, to fulfill their dreams of becoming professional ballet dancers. Siena goes through many trials and adventures at her new ballet school in New York. As well, Siena is having personal problems and issues at home (her parents are separating) but the ballet school and her friends help her through her these difficult times.

This book tells about the life of a ballet dancer, which is really interesting to read about. I dance, so I can relate to it. You can also relate this to Cine Manga books because both are graphic novels. To Dance is an amazing book and you don't have to be a dancer to read this. I think all girls will enjoy it.

- Angela McLean, 9, Grade 4, Mississauga

CHICAGOLAND
Review in 11/12/06 Chicagoland

This is a memoir of author Siena Cherson Siegel's life in dance, and the graphic-novel format presents it in a particularly suitable way. We follow Siena from her youngest days in Puerto Rico through her many years at the School of American Ballet in New York until she stops dancing at 18 and goes to college. This is a story about a particular time and place—about seeing the Bolshoi on tour, about George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov—and also about the hopes and sore feet shared by so many little girls with ballet dreams. Siegel shares the books and movies that inspired her, as well as the ups and downs of family life.

***FAVORITE BLOGS***
Review from Planet Esme

The PLANETESME BOOK-A-DAY PLAN picked the best new chidlren's books from Esme's Shelf and included TO DANCE saying:

Okay, toodle-oo to Noel Streatfield's charming old chestnut BALLET SHOES, here is a dance love-affair novel for a new generation. Little girls will be blown away by the passionate story of how one Puerto Rican girl really gets to point ... toe shoes, that is! Siegel should have seriously gotten more notoriety for his masterful picture book operetta SEADOGS, but this diamond of a book should establish him as an indisputable A-list illustrator. Get your front row ticket to reading, and be prepared to stand in ovation ... this thing of beauty will undoubtedly inspire many new art appreciators and ballerinas of tomorrow.

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© Mark Siegel 2006, all rights reserved