A performance accident leaves a ballet soloist fighting for her career and her life.
This follow-up to Rose’s first installment of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles (Off Balance, 2015) finds the author once again tackling a dancecentric family drama, this time spotlighting the bond between two sisters. Dena Lindgren is shocked to find herself promoted to soloist ahead of her older sister, Rebecca, by Anders Gunst, the omniscient and imperious director of the West Coast Ballet Theatre. “You lack your sister’s looks,” the always-sensitive Anders tells her, “but it’s that very omission that makes you a more interesting dancer to watch.” Of course, this makes her relationship with Rebecca tense, but there’s something else throwing her life off course, “a nameless, fuzzy disequilibrium” that seems to be causing slight deafness and, during a performance of Spirit Hour, causes her to trip and fall. Twice. Doctors confirm it: there’s a tumor locked onto her vestibulocochlear nerve, and it’s going to bring her career to a halt. Meanwhile, both sisters wrestle with surprising romances; social media brings some of the ballet world’s dark secrets to light; and readers finds themselves caught up in the way a close group of dancers can descend into “high school-level cattiness all over again.” Rose is marvelous at subverting her readers’ expectations: at first, they expect Rebecca to be unsympathetic and opportunistic, but she’s far more complex than that. In alternating chapters, readers learn as much about one sister as they do the other. And the siblings aren’t the only two fully rounded characters. Their father, Conrad; the loyal Lana; the whistleblower Tatum; and much of the company are brought believably and even poignantly to life. The quiet beauty of the prose rarely calls attention to itself but carries the reader smoothly through the tale with no bumps in the road (“It all starts and ends with the artistic director. Casting in ballets. Daily rehearsal schedules. Careers. One word from him, an index finger raised, a frown creasing his brow, could change everything”). And the glossary of dance terms at the end of the book proves a marvelous resource for the uninitiated. This is a novel both for ballet lovers and those new to the art.
A lovely and engaging tale of sibling rivalry in the high-stakes dance world.