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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Swan


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Just in time for Christmas, CMX manga has brought out the 1992 Swan by Ariyoshi Kyoko. It's in the obligatory manga style, which means it reads from what westerners would consider the back to the front, and from reader's right to reader's left and down the page. After you get used to this convention, it's easy!

 

The comic is shoujo (girl-comic), so the plotline is kind of Harlequin Romance: Can Hijiri Masumi, a girl from the outlands of Hokkaido find true love and happiness in the world of international ballet? The art is rather remarkable. Ms. Ariyoshi obviously knows ballet, as her artwork depicts parts of many ballets accurately, down to the costume detail. The characters in the comic are also true-to-life; real stars are the stars of the programs that Masumi sees. The first is indicative that the artist knows the ballet business, but someone in production doesn't, at least not as well. It's kind of odd to see "Maria Prisetskaya" featured. (Japanese lacks an unvoiced "L" phoneme, so it is often rendered as "R") I doubt that it's the translator's fault, her name is Maya Perry, and she would know rather well how to render her own name correctly in the katakana alphabet and phonetics.

 

Look for figures that look like their aunts might be Barbie and Sailor Moon. Long, very long, legs and arms, short torsos, slightly large head, huge, pool-like western eyes, used frequently for expression, a convention going back not only to the first modern manga and anime, Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy), but also into the general history of popular art in Japanese culture.

 

The standard against which the Japanese ballet student is judged is a high one: Russian ballet.

Judges at a ballet competition are pictured as "G. Ulanova" and "S. Messerer". Oddly, it is "A. Messerer" who is pictured. S had more hair, for one thing. Ms. Ariyoshi's drawings owe a lot to various photographs of productions going back into the 1960s (Raymonda is illustrated using the costumes for Sir Frederick Ashton's pas de deux for Svetlana Beriosova and Donald MacLeary) and also Carlus Dyer's drawings for the Kirstein/Stuart The Classic Ballet.

 

It's a rare day that ballet is the feature of a comic book series anywhere. I recommend a careful look at this work, not only as popular entertainment, but as a cultural artifact of ballet in Japan and its spreading popularity. (US$9.95 at manga stores)

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Guest Old Fashioned

Ooooh, thanks for the heads up! I've never been into the Asian comic books (or any other comic books for that matter!), but some of my friends obsessed with Asian culture might be interested (funny how my non-Asian friends are into Asian stuff, and my Asian friends are into European culture...). I might like to own a copy myself because of the content. Maybe if I gave these out as Xmas gifts, it might get others interested in ballet, too!

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I'll be honest here; I love anime, and to a slightly lesser extent, the manga that they spring from.

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Ooh! I have this adoration of manga/anime, but only certain ones (I'm very picky - but of anime, Serial Experiments: Lain and Hellsing are my favorites.) I'll check this out!

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Lain is a favorite of mine, too. But I keep thinking, what's a sweet little girl like this doing not being in ballet class instead of getting targeted with laser sights?

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Speaking of ballet in comics... everybody might already know this, but in case not, the comic Chickweed Lane also features a ballet student, though ballet is just one theme in it (family relations, school and cats being some other major themes). The latest strip and last 30 days are available in the web (click the link above), but I have no idea of the availability of older strips.

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That's why I brought this one up. It is entirely driven by ballet. And the saga isn't over - the volume ends with a segue setup into the next issue, which should come to North America next year.

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And can you imagine Inuyasha and Kouga in ballet class? Great elevation on the one, great turns on the other, but big discipline problems. Now Miroku would be just fine with ballet - he'd just be a different sort of discipline problem. I guess Shippo would do best. We'd just have to cut a hole in the tights for his tail, just like for Kouga. :P

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I really like anime and manga :wink:, and am really interested now about this manga. There are also two other ballet mangas that you might be interested in.

Forbidden Dance (4 vols)

Princess Tutu

Princess Tutu is also an anime.

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I really like anime and manga :(, and am really interested now about this manga. There are also two other ballet mangas that you might be interested in.

Forbidden Dance (4 vols)

Princess Tutu

Princess Tutu is also an anime.

 

Interesting! :( Have you read the manga or seen the anime? If so, how are they in terms of quality? Japan is a "growth market" for ballet, and the dancers they produce speak very well of the training going on there, and also the interest of the audience!

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Old Fashioned

I finally got my hands on Swan and thought it was pretty cheesy, but I liked the drawings. Hehe, I liked how they made Sergeiev look all dreamy and showed up on almost every other page, even if he wasn't involved in that particular scene. There was this one part when a guy said Margot Fonteyn believed Japan would become the center of the ballet world (something along those lines) after France and Russia. Did she really say that? Japan just seems kind of random...

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Guest LaFilleMalGardee

Wow! I had no idea that there was ballet anime/manga...however I haven't been shopping around lately either. I really enjoy it though (well, the ones with good plots atleast) so I'd love to check those out! Thanks Mel and monte!

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