Dance Class Volumes 1 and 2
I got a quick taste of the Dance Class comics by Beka and Crip as part of the Papercutz Free Comic Book Day comic. Since then, I’ve had a chance to read the two slim volumes released so far, and I’ve enjoyed them.
So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop?
The books, translated from the French (where it’s called Studio Danse), consist of single-page strips that each provide a gag. Yet reading a bunch of them together, a picture of these girls (and one guy, Bruno) emerge, and there’s even a storyline in this volume, about preparing for and completing a performance of the Sleeping Beauty ballet.
Julie, Alia, and their friends are studying not just ballet, but modern dance, and even hip-hop. (I suspect the non-classical dances might have been introduced to draw more outrageous poses and different outfits.) That class is taught by KT, whom the girls all have a crush on. They also have a nemesis, the self-centered Carla, who’s especially mean to the larger-sized Lucie. Not every strip takes place in dance class; there are also dance-related jokes set in the classroom or outdoors.
The art has a great sense of movement, particularly important when conveying such an active endeavor. Plus, attention is paid to their outfits, an important part of creating a realistic visual world for young women.
I appreciated the cartoony art style in that the girls are thin, but still drawn with varying body types. That’s a problem I have with some other media portrayals of dance. I understand that in some cases, they’re simply reflecting an unhealthy attitude often enforced in ballet, but I think they’re also perpetuating it. Unfortunately, the jokes that involve Lucie are all about her weight or how much she likes to eat, which does become stereotypical and discouraging. Parents may also want to know that the kids are occasionally shown cheating in school or lying to their parents without ill effect.
Romeo and Juliets
This second volume will be out next month, showing the kids dealing with the visit of a famous prima ballerina. They also work on the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo is played by a new student, Tim, who sets Julie’s heart aflutter. Some of the punchlines involve modernizing the show, which I thought was cute, and thankfully, Lucie’s jokes aren’t so much about food. (Plus, the editor’s note in the back discusses the topic of weight and representation as well.)
The publisher has posted a few preview pages, so you can get an idea of the look of the series. It’s a good choice for tween girls, many of whom have had these experiences or similar in their own dance classes, so long as they understand that some of the content is exaggerated for the humor and shouldn’t be mimicked. Many of these cartoons are easy to pick up and relate to, especially at that age.
By the way, Béka is a pseudonym for a writing team, Bertrand Escaich and Caroline Rogue. The next volume, African Folk Dance Fever, is due out in November. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)