I’m just going to jump all the other books waiting for a post and go straight to this one, because it needs to be translated into English yesterday. Vivès’ other book, A Taste of Chlorine, was translated and I hope the same happens to Polina, so it has the wider audience it deserves.

Using only black-and-white, Vivès tells the story of a talented Russian ballerina from the moment she’s accepted into a famous dance boarding school. If you know a little about classic ballet dancers, you know it’s a tough career. They must have the stamina of world-class athletes, and at the same time the emotional intelligent needed to make art.

Polina tackles many of the challenges of a ballerina’s life: the extreme training, the emotional strain of acute body control, the competition. At the centre of the book is her relationship with her teacher, a demanding and feared legend of Russian ballet scene.

He has very set ideas on what’s dance’s ultimate objective and what’s needed to get the audience to feel what you want them to feel. But in the end, Polina is a normal child and a normal teenage (though a gifted one), and sometimes we’re just not ready to understand what’s best for us. It’s fascinating to accompany her path towards her own identity, her unique concept of art and dance, and her struggle between acceptance and rebellion.

Vivès’ drawings reminded me of a class I had at art school. The teacher asked Ricardo (are you there? Do you remember this?) to climb on a table and pose with a chair. Then she gave us 5 minutes to drawn him. Then 2 minutes, then 1, then 30 seconds and finally 10 seconds. At the end of those 10 second you realize you’ve dropped the non-essential stuff and just captured the essence of what you see, which is a much harder thing to do. Since then I tend to admire more the artist that in just a few strokes can say everything, than the one that paints something like a photograph.

With just a few lines and shadows, Vivès makes dance come to life. I suspect that body movement is his speciality, because A Taste of Chlorine does something similar, only with swimmers.

Larissa, in the review that made me want to read this (thank you!), pointed out that Polina made her thing of the movie The Company. Without too many dialogues, it portrays the life of a ballet company during one year. To that I’ll also add the ballet-flick Center Stage.

Keep an eye out for the English edition!

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Other thoughts in French: Danses Avec la Plume,  Au Bon Roman, BD75011, Secrets de filles,  Les Carnet Lectures de Solenn,  Les Livres de George, Un chat passant parmis livres, Bulles et Onomatopées, Charlotteauchoco, Les BD du Chat Noir, The Homemade Poney, Lost Persons Area  (vos avis?)

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