It is hard enough to juggle school, family, and hormones for regular kids in middle school, but add in dance class and you have a real challenge. Julie, Lucy, and Alia are up to the task. Dance Class tells the story of their lives as hopeful dancers. The girls spend their days rehearsing, doing homework, and dealing with frenimies who are really not so nice. They struggle with crushes on boys and whether to stay home to practice their dancing or go to a party.
Written by Bertrand Escaich and Caroline Rogue under the pseudonym Beka, each volume is held together by an over-arching story based on the production the dance school is performing (Sleeping Beauty in vol. 1, Romeo and Juliet in vol. 2), but the actual stories are told in a series of one page vignettes, much like an extended comic strip.
In Vol. 1, the school has just hired K.T. to teach Hip-Hop classes. The girls are equally excited to learn a new dance style and to have the school’s first male teacher. There is the excitement of learning what the semester’s performance will be, the agony and elation of getting or not getting a coveted part, and the difficulty of practice, practice, practice. One running joke through the series is how K.T. is constantly complementing Mary, the modern dance teacher, on her new and innovative dance routines. These routines always end up being just everyday life — primping in front of a mirror, dancing with umbrellas because the sprinklers went off, etc. — that K.T. has misinterpreted as a dance. I liked this because it was funny on multiple levels. On the surface, it’s funny because the girls are stuck in a silly situation, say locked into the dance studio. But it’s also poking fun at modern dance and how it can look like almost any movement.
I didn’t like that the “fat” girl, Lucie, still looks fairly thin except for chipmunk cheeks. She is also the most stereotypical of the characters, always looking for food or thinking about food over everything else.
The book would have benefited from a glossary of dance terms and names of different types of dances. While most people probably do know what a pas de deux is, many will not know the difference between a glisande and a grand battement. The terms tend to be thrown around without definition. While this book is clearly aimed at the young dancer, it has a wider appeal that would have been strengthened by a glossary.
Still, these are small points. This book would be a great addition to any library.
Art by Crip
#1: So You Think You Can Hip-Hop ISBN: 978-159707254
#2: Romeo and Juliets ISBN: 978-1597073172
Publisher Age Rating: Age 11 and up