Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey

The Cranes Dance
Goodreads Summary:
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.

My Review:
Two things: this is not a YA book. I don't know why I was under the impression it was, except that the cover has a very YA feel. Second, The Cranes Dance is finally a book about ballet, written by a dancer. Which does make a big difference. I was very disappointed with both Crash and Bunheads. (Short Review of Bunheads) I liked Crash, but despite the ballet dancer on the cover, it really wasn't about the ballet and didn't feature at all in the book. So I felt cheated by these two books. The other day, I came across this Review of Cranes Dance on another blog, Futuresdading. Luckily, my library had the ebook so I was able to download it and start reading it at 5 am. And it was so good, I finished it a few hours later.

I really criticized Bunheads for using ballet/dance terms without defining them. This book did it as well, but I guess there really isn't a way to explain the terms that wouldn't wind up breaking the flow of the book. I've come to this- that the best way to learn about ballet, is just to watch it. So, here are some of the greats dancing. Baryshnikov dancing The Nutcracker with Gelsey Kirkland:

And of course...Nureyev. In one of the best ballet pas de deux (dance for two) ever!

Even though this book isn't any better than Bunheads at explaining ballet terms, The Cranes Dance gives a remarkably intimate glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stuff in a professional ballet company. In a very personal way. Yes, at times Kate hates the ballet, but it's a love-hate thing. It's about a dancer coming to the realization that she will never be the best. Kate, in the book, is very young but already nearing the end of her professional life. And in this book she realizes that she will never reach the pinnacle- that she just doesn't have the talent, the spark...and all the practice in the world will not make her one of ballet's great stars. Unlike her sister, Gwen, who eclipses her as a dancer. Now in any super competitive field, there is jealousy and rivalry. But because of the short life span of a dancer, this competition is intensified. So throw the fact that your greatest rival is your sister...

On top of the the sibling rivalry, you add in that Gwen is mentally ill. This makes for a compelling read as Kate struggles with her feelings of jealousy, maybe even a little hatred and bitterness. Then you throw in the guilt that Kate must feel because it's not some stranger she feels this for, it's her sister. Her sister who is mentally ill. All of this makes for a compelling read, even if you  never took ballet lessons as a kid and wondered, "What if?" Plus there are some great bits of wonderfully sarcastic, intimate, bitter dialogue- both internal and external- in this book. Kate says (in her mind):
You can always tell when people don't like you because their voices will sound like they're acting when they talk to you. That's how you know that they spend a certain amount of time rehearsing in private the biting and cutting things they wish they could say to you in person.
If you want to see some behind the scenes stuff at a real ballet company, episodes from Breaking Pointe are available online (Thanks to Dee at Dee's Book Blog for mentioning this show):  Breaking Pointe

Overall Rating: 4 stars

Meg Howrey's Website
Meg Howrey on Twitter 


  1. Well, I have Bunheads. I was planning to read and experience my first book that is about "ballet". This book looks really promising, I LOVE realistic novels. Even if they are not YA.
    Love your blog :)

  2. I'm kind of on the fence with this book. I love dance books and it's so hard to find one well written or by someone who actually knows something about dance. I kind of wish there was a book just about dancing and that world without having to throw in mental illness or some other story line. It seems most writers don't think the world of dance is interesting enough in itself and I personally find it fascinating. Still, your review makes me want to pick this up.

  3. Hi -great review; very honest.
    I'd like to nominate you for the One Lovely Blog Award. You have a fab blog and great book reviews/memes etc. If you wish to participate, please see my post:

    Best wishes

  4. interesting article. I love.. and I want to see the latest articles from this website.. Hopefully can be realized , and good luck always....


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