Review by Frank Plowright
Dance Class volumes can be read in pretty well any order, with the basics of the feature supplied here on the first page. Alia, Julie and Lucie are teenagers who love their dance classes, and attend a dance school supplying a good variety of options. For the sake of the mostly one page jokes, the girls try them all at one stage or another from African dance to ballet.
By now the writing team of Béka have settled into a workable formula of gentle humour. Most jokes are generated by the girls being obsessed with dance in all its forms, with occasional steps outside that safety zone when the thought occurs. The home situations of all three girls are established, so parents and siblings also feature. When Béka stray from the single page to extend a joke, they run into problems with the pacing, such as three looong pages leading up to Alia applying dance principles to learning in her school classes. They’re better when running a theme over several pages and each page ending on a joke, such as Julie’s younger sister Capucine being taken to the ballet for the first time.
Béka expand on A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Paris by this time having the girls sent to St Petersburg to take part in a study program. It gives artist Crip the chance to draw some beautiful scenery, but the bulk of the book features his amazingly expressive movement and a beautifying of the everyday. Just a panel of the three girls chatting possesses an amazing poise and elegance.
The pretence for American readers that Dance Class features American girls rather than being translated from French is funny, especially when the visuals of almost every scene set outside the dance classes or school scream otherwise. What’s wrong with the idea of young American girls reading about French teenagers? Do Papercutz claim the Smurfs are in Wisconsin?
Building toward a performance over the final pages was dropped last time, but here the girls putting on the Nutcracker with the Russian male teenagers restores the format. As magnificent as Crip has been throughout, his detailing of the backstage area and the ballet itself is jaw-dropping. It rounds off another selection that should appeal to dance-obsessed young girls and lovers of fine cartooning anywhere. The travel theme continues in the next volume A Merry Olde Christmas.