The Cranes Dance
I threw my neck out in the middle of Swan Lake last night.
So begins the tale of Kate Crane, a soloist in a celebrated New York City ballet company who is struggling to keep her place in a very demanding world. At every turn she is haunted by her close relationship with her younger sister, Gwen, a fellow company dancer whose career quickly surpassed Kate’s, but who has recently suffered a breakdown and returned home.
Alone for the first time in her life, Kate is anxious and full of guilt about the role she may have played in her sister’s collapse. As we follow her on an insider tour of rehearsals, performances, and partners onstage and off, she confronts the tangle of love, jealousy, pride, and obsession that are beginning to fracture her own sanity. Funny, dark, intimate, and unflinchingly honest, The Cranes Dance is a book that pulls back the curtains to reveal the private lives of dancers and explores the complicated bond between sisters.
Howrey's engaging new novel (after Blind Sight) exposes the competitive world of professional ballet through Kate Crane, a charmingly sarcastic ballerina at a crossroads. Kate's younger sister, Gwen, who dances in the same company and is a better dancer than Kate, has come back to her family after an emotional collapse for which Kate feels responsible. Gwen's absence from the stage gives Kate opportunities, but the sisters have been struggling with competition and support for so long that Kate, trying to define herself without her sister, is uncomfortable with success. Already at a point where age and the limits of her talent are making her confront the future, Kate suffers an injury and spirals into guilt and depression in the novel's dark second half. Though the plot moves slowly and secrets are disclosed too late, Kate is an ideal guide to an unfamiliar world, from her irreverent explanations of her ballets (Howrey was a professional dancer) to her relatable self-doubt and honesty. Her revelations about family, talent, and what makes us special create a thought-provoking and entertaining read.
The White Swan Finds Her Voice
Written by a professional dancer, The Cranes Dance is the keenly observed story of Kate, a Soloist with an elite New York ballet company who is trying to survive the final weeks of a season that may make or break her career, or, for that matter, even end her life.
Kate's voice is so charming and amusing, we believe her at first when she tries to convince us she's doing just fine despite all the stress she's under. But as she takes us on an authentically detailed, unsentimental but often wryly loving tour of her life as a dancer, we begin to suspect she's deceiving both us and herself, and that beneath her brave banter she's near to breaking.
The life of a Soloist in an elite dance company is exacting and exhausting just in itself. But the Principal Dancers - the stars of the Company - are dropping out with injuries and Kate is concealing her own painful injury to cover their roles. Her sister Gwen - one of those stars who's taken leave - is in fact having a terrifying emotional breakdown and although Kate has in truth done everything she could to hold her sister together, her parents and her own sense of guilt are pressuring her to do even more. Meanwhile, rather than support her through these escalating crises, Kate's boyfriend has left her cold - and again Kate tries to blame herself.
It's all too true a story both in the arts and in family life: because she's a trooper, because she's the sensible child, Kate's asked to give more and more to the Company, her parents, her brother and her sister, and the men in her life while getting far too little in return.
As Kate's season nears its close, we pray that this won't be a Cinderella story that lacks a final triumph, and that her wit and tremendous courage as a young woman and an artist - with a little help from her friends - will see her through to the victory she deserves.
Although set in the world of dance, Kate's experience of the literal agony and occasional, merciful ecstasy of the life of an artist is equally true for athletes, writers, actors, musicians or any other performer or artist who is driven to do what she does best. By turns delightfully good-natured, deeply moving, and convincingly informed, it's a book those artists - and their fans, friends, lovers, parents, and anyone who wants to understand the reality behind the performance - will treasure.
it is amazingly touching. great book