THE JOKER AND THE SWAN by Dorothy Crayder


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From her flip, contemporary agitations, Crayder turns here to an older, ballet-school model, with its hopes and disappointments and the moral conflicts they raise. Both Zoe and Tavia have determined mothers who sacrifice and push their daughters and dream of prima ballerina futures. Their teacher, Madame Polinka from Russia, is determined that one of the two will make it, for their glory and hers. But on a backstage visit to Pavlova, the great ballerina singles out Tavia and gives her a pair of her own ballet shoes. From then on Tavia dances as if charmed and Zoe is plagued by wobbles. All this is told in a flashback on the day Madame Polinka chooses Tavia for the Giselle role, and Zoe, secretly, in a fit of jealousy, throws the ""magic"" shoes out the window. But, as it happens, the remorseful Zoe acquires a stray dog, Joker, on that very day; the dog, who still speaks, was once a human painter destructively jealous of his painter brother; and now with Joker's help Zoe acquires the courage to return to Pavlova for another pair of shoes for Tavia--though the magic, Pavlova assures her, is not in the shoes. Tavia now shines as Giselle, Madame Polinka sympathizes with ""our brave little Zoe,"" ""my poor galupchik,"" and before this slender tale is told Zoe finds her true calling as a choreographer. It seems that the wobbles were just her feet wanting to do different steps--and now, in Madame Polinka's words, a ""so famous"" choreographer ""has need of my Zoe to help him to make up his so beautiful dances."" As for Joker, his mission accomplished, he loses his ability to speak and lives on happily as Zoe's pet mutt. Readers lured by the cover--a collage of roses, Pavlova photos, wistful young dancer, and lovable mutt--will no doubt get just what they are looking for. But it's all fanciful mush, from Pavlova's goopy backstage performance to Joker's dippy role, and from the tear-stained situation to the everyone-wins outcome.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row