Cranes really do dance. But instead of the bird kingdom, The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey explores the world of professional ballet and the relationship between Kate and Gwen Crane, two dancers who are also sisters. They have always had a “professional” rivalry – Kate more lively and dramatic, Gwen stronger on technique. When Gwen suffers a nervous breakdown, Kate scrambles to keep her own life on track and also to figure out where her sister’s life derailed. As the past unfolds, it becomes clear that the sisters’ story is also a “dance”: Kate tried to ignore the signs that all was not well, even as Gwen’s idiosyncrasies became more disturbing.
Why is this book intriguing? It’s straightforward but well written. Howrey, herself a professional dancer, adds plenty of details to the practical life situation of a dancer trying to make it to the top in New York City. Dancers crammed into studio apartments, putting themselves through punishing classes and instructors, constantly scoping out the competition in other students…it’s a tough existence. Yet even knowing more about the harsh realities of the ballet world and how slight the chance is of having a successful career, for dance lovers it still seems…magical. There’s still that pull.
Also keeping the reader engaged is Kate’s narrative. It is at times sarcastic, even abrasive, but also funny. As an added bonus, several ballet plots are outlined (complete with dry humor) and wrapped into the story. As the book evolves, Kate comes to her own understanding about the relationship between herself, her sister and her profession. For fans of the film Black Swan, here’s a story with psychological depth and a slightly more hopeful ending.