Thursday, October 4, 2012

"The Cranes Dance"

Meg Howrey is a classically trained dancer who has performed with the Joffrey, Los Angeles Opera, and City Ballet of Los Angeles. She made her theatrical debut at Lincoln Center, and toured with the Broadway production of Contact, for which she won the 2001 Ovation Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Howrey applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel The Cranes Dance, and reported the following:
We’re in the middle of a phone conversation on page 69, between the protagonist Kate – a professional ballet dancer, and her younger brother Keith – a professional tennis player. They’ve been shooting the shit and now they’re getting down to essentials. Keith is asking about their sister Gwen, who has suffered a breakdown and gone home to Michigan to stay with their parents. Kate is hedging her answers. Perhaps the only thing a casual browser would glean from this page is that the Kate person feels guilty about something. Not really enough to make someone want to read the book, so I hope the next page they flip to is the sex scene.

But I liked imaging the physicality of this moment, and I liked the relationship between these two characters. Both brother and sister are lying down, icing their respective injuries. They are both people who can’t afford to fall apart, physically or emotionally. Kate is in the middle of a season, Keith is preparing for a tournament in Morocco. The conversation as a whole is a bit of a tennis match between two siblings who aren’t quite sure where the lines of the court are. There are little rushes to the net followed almost immediately with the groundstrokes they are more comfortable with.

One of the things I was interested in with Kate – and ballet dancers in general – is how they are trained to express very big, grand emotions. These are choreographed, staged, presented to an audience with all the trimmings. It is intensely artificial and yet the body doesn’t lie…if you are dancing the Queen, you become the Queen. And then the curtain comes down and who are you then? You are the person lying in bed, icing your neck, worried and sad, wanting to talk to your brother but unable to say the one thing that really matters. You can’t hear the music and you don’t know the steps for this one.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Howrey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue