Dance firsts are rare: Albrecht nude? Seen it. Swan Lake in the round? Been there. But ballet manga is something new, at least when it involves a real dancer.
What is manga? I hear the balletomanes cry who never venture far from the local opera house. Well, Wikipedia defines it thus:
Manga are comics created in Japan, or by Japanese creators in the Japanese language, conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century. They have a long and complex pre-history in earlier Japanese art.
Manga, in Japanese, looks like this – 漫画 – and can loosely be translated as ‘whimsical drawings'.
Manga-artist Takafumi Adachi met Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae last summer, and they were interested to develop something together.
The project was something I wanted to do for a long time. I have always loved animation and I fell in love with Manga during my visits to Japan.
says McRae. So Adachi has given the Australian dancer the characteristic wide-eyed look, and launched him in a new ‘Ballet Fantasy Manga' series which will appear in every issue of Shinshokan Japan's new Dancin' Magazine.
The comic tells the story of ballet student Dan who teams up with Steven McRae to defeat the rat monsters. This project is aimed to inspire its readers, predominantly children, to follow their dreams, taking them on journeys of discovery, where hard work, passion and determination are rewarded. The project is just setting out, but both Adachi and McRae have plans to develop it much further. The first issue, in Japanese initially, will be available from 5 August, and there will be a tie-in website so that people can stay in touch with what is happening. McRae is excited,
I wanted to reach out to both children and adults, and encourage them to pursue their dreams. I adore the artistic qualities of manga and I believe it captures the passion and determination needed to excel in life. This ballet and manga collaboration is aimed to inspire.
At this stage, the initial series only includes myself as a real dancer, however, I have been approached by some real dancers who would like to be involved, so perhaps you will see some guest Manga Stars in the future.
Next, Manga: the ballet? Stay tuned…
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.