Welcome to the Ballroom Volume 1 by Tomo Takeuchi
The ballet manga Swan is one of my all-time favorites, and dance manga doesn’t get translated into english very often so I was very interested in checking out Welcome to the Ballroom, which has a shonen take on learning how to dance.
Like many shonen protagonists, Tatara Fujita is aimless and without purpose. When he’s saved from being bullied by Kaname Sengoku, Tatara is dragged along to a ballroom dance studio where he is part of a new student round-up campaign. Kaname yells at him, “Through dance, you can absolutely achieve your adolescent fantasies of touching someone’s body!” Conveniently Tatara discovers that Shizuku, a girl at his school has been taking dance classes at the same studio. Tatara is too self-conscious and poor to sign up for lessons, but later on at home he watches a dvd of ballroom dance performances and decides that he’s finally found something that he can care about.
When Tatara shows up at the studio again and announces to Kaname that he’s going to turn pro and wants to learn how to dance, he’s set up for some serious hazing. Kaname instructs his new student in the box step and tells him to practice until he is given permission to stop. Tatara practices all through the night and into the next morning. It turns out that while he isn’t great at following directions, if he sees a dance performed he can successfully mimic some advanced movements.
I enjoyed the art in this book, while the dancing doesn’t reach level of the ballet in Swan, the dance scenes are suitably dynamic. I was impressed at how Takeuchi handled the varying looks and somewhat split personality of Shizuku’s partner Hanaoka, who shifts from being a polished and commanding presence on the dance floor to a scruffy student with a cold. The contrast between the dancers in daily life and their costumes and bearing during competition showcases how ballroom dancing is an entirely new world.
By the end of the volume, Tatara has found his purpose, started to practice with great devotion, and continued despite all of Kaname’s attempts to discourage him. It is possible to see the possibility that he might make it as a dancer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing some of the shonen staple sports manga plot elements being applied to ballroom dance.