There’s a lot of comfort in the routine that comes with dancing in a company, but it’s grueling, too. I take company class every morning, rehearse for up to seven hours a day, and then it’s time to prepare for the performance. After the show I hobble home, exhausted and sore, but I never feel more alive. (The thing about the corps de ballet I never realized is that we’re in almost every single performance—we may not be alone on stage, but we’re always there.) I sometimes have dinner with friends, but mostly I head home to watch TV while I sew shoes and ice before bed. My parents were right—it’s not an easy path. Something new seems to hurts every day. But it’s an incredible life. We tour every summer and I get to work with some amazing choreographers. It’s a lot harder than I expected, but it’s worth it. It’s what I love, and what I’ve chosen. I know it’s what you would have chosen, if you’d had the chance.
So I’ll dance for both of us.
I’ll go on stage every night and dance like I’m trying to blow the doors off the hinges.
I’ll dance like we’re still out on the boardwalk in Coney Island, our hair blowing in the ocean breeze, grazing hands accidentally on purpose while music fills the darkening sky.
I’ll dance like you just told me you loved me for the first time.
I’ll be up there showing you I love you back.
EFFUSIVE THANKS, scribbled love notes, and poorly executed high-fives (my fault, not yours—I have terrible spatial skills) are due to the following people and things, in no particular order: The incredible team at Razorbill/PRH: Have I used incredible in any of my previous acknowledgments? I’m too lazy to check. If so, please accept any and all of the following adjectives as potential substitutions: exceptional, fantastic, wonderful, top-notch, boffo, socko, gangbusters, crackerjack, dynamite. Special shout-outs to my editor, Jessica Almon, for her cool head, keen eye, excellent fashion sense, and for helping me to order and focus the five voices all talking to one another at once (in the book, not my head—although, that too); to my associate publisher and occasional publicist, Casey McIntyre, for her tireless support and for sending me to conferences all over the country in the fall of 2015 so that I could panic-write alone in nice hotel rooms; and to my publisher and publishing Yoda, Ben Schrank, for his unflappable leadership—and for occasionally liking my Instagram photos.
My beloved agent, Brettne Bloom, for her wit, wisdom, and Texas-sized belief in me. I will plot world domination over long lunches with you any day, lady.
Chris Silas Neal, for the breathtaking cover art. It makes my heart leap every time I see it.
Sophie Flack, my most favorite bunhead, for her friendship, gentle and nonpatronizing fact-checking (even when I got things completely ass-backwards), and early enthusiasm for this book. I owe you a Moscow Mule or seven.
My sister Zoe, for sharing her memories of LaGuardia High School and then letting me fictionalize them beyond all recognition (apart from location, Janus Academy has almost nothing in common with the Fame school, I swear).
Sarah Levithan, for generously providing background about the ballet world and its inner workings—and for the restorative walks through Fort Tryon Park!
All the performing arts students who told me their stories and who kindly suppressed their laughter even when I asked stuff like, “Do people still throw parties? Is that still a thing?”
The real, unbelievably talented dancers both professional and amateur who inspired the characters of Joy and Diego—I am in awe of you.
My parents, Ellen and Gara, who brought me up to love the arts and to dream of one day becoming a performer—which, okay, fine, I never did, but which I sort of experienced vicariously through writing this book.
My husband, Jeff, who let me work out of his office for half the summer of 2015 while he took care of our son—and who kept a jar stocked with Tootsie Pops, a.k.a. over-the-counter Xanax, in said office.
My friends, for being wonderful and tolerant and wise and lovely, and for giving me much-needed breaks from the anxiety-ridden isolation of my apartment.
My son, Sam, for being a wonder, a light, and a welcome distraction from my work—always.
My internet-blocking app, without which I would never write anything for the rest of eternity.
My phone, through which I was still able to complain about writing on Twitter when I had the internet blocked on my computer.