Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hope VBT

Indigo is living the life she’s always imagined at the famed New York School of Ballet. Or is she? Although she hopes she’ll be chosen for the company, her ballet teachers aren’t talking and their silence is confusing.

When Indigo is singled out for a coveted solo she feels her dreams are finally within reach, until she finds out she’s dancing with Felipe Gonzalez, the school’s smolderingly hot rising star. In the days that follow, Indigo questions everything she thought was true and finds herself making surprising choices.

After a fateful piece of paper reveals the truth, Indigo must ask herself the hardest question of all: can she take control of her own future to create the life she wants?

Maggie plunks her bag down, grabbing the spot next to me. “Ten minutes ‘til the fun begins,” she says. She glances around furtively before adding, “Who knows what torture she'll dish out today. But inquiring minds want to know: will she reach new levels of cattiness or will we be left sorely disappointed?” She grins wickedly as she finishes tying a ribbon on her pointe shoe.

Neither of us fares well when Alexa Damore teaches class. She's known for her snide comments and keen ability to pick people apart. “I’ll take disappointment over outright humiliation any day,” I counter. “But who knows. Maybe one of these days she’ll be miraculously transformed.”

Maggie arches an eyebrow. “What?” I continue. “It’s not too much to hope for–a little prayer can’t hurt. Pray with me. ” I fold my hands together and duck my head down. Maggie smacks me. I stick my tongue out at her while I finish tying my shoes. I refuse to climb on the negativity train with her. It's never a good way to start class.

The door to the studio glides open and a sudden hush sweeps through the room, as if the oxygen has been sucked away. Alexa Damore has arrived–but she’s wearing street clothes–and she’s not alone.

Benjamin Stafford, Artistic Director of Manhattan Ballet Theater, also known as the man who holds our future in his hands, stands in the center of the room. From where I stand, the ambient light behind him illuminates the outline of his body, as if he's a living embodiment of a god. Then again, he is a god in the world of ballet. The silence is deafening as he slowly rotates around, gazing at each of us in turn. He flashes a brilliant smile and it’s all I can barely look at him. He's even larger in life than he is onstage with  broad shoulders, chiseled features, dark, tousled hair, and blazing blue eyes. On any given day he’s something to look at, but the glowing outline thing further illustrates the glaring difference between him and everyone else in the room.

His eyes fall on me and my heart flutters in my ribcage. I immediately stand a little bit taller and suck in my gut. My breath gets shallower and tighter. I close my eyes and force myself to breath normally. Passing out in class is not the way I want to make an impression.

I may not survive this class.

New York: The City of Dreams
New York City: they call it the city that never sleeps. It's place where you can order sushi and have it delivered to your front door– anytime, day or night– or find a breakfast spot while the rest of the world is sleeping. New York City has long been associated with glamour and all of the perks that come with a big city lifestyle; it's the home of fashion and one of the most major hubs in the world for the arts... which means anyone who's serious about a dance career knows they need to be there.

I moved to New York City when I was fourteen, leaving my home, my family and my friends behind after receiving an invitation to become a full-time student at the School of American Ballet. My years in New York were an incredible time of growth for me, both as a dancer and as a human being. It was a pivotal period that shaped so much of who I am today. There were fun discoveries, like finding the best breakfast spots (especially the delicious super-sized muffins at the deli two blocks from my apartment), trying coffee for the first time (hated it–although it's a very different story now), and exploring the city with friends during rare free moments.

It was always a glorious inspiration walking past Lincoln Center (which I did several times most days, hustling back and forth between high school and ballet classes and rehearsals), the opulent buildings were home to a life I dreamed about: dancing with New York City Ballet someday.

There were incredibly difficult moments, too. Ballet is also one of the most competitive careers on the planet. Just how competitive are we talking? Check out this recent statistic: the website for the School of American Ballet (one of the top professional ballet schools in the world) states that the school conducts an annual 20-city tour where over 2,000 dancers compete for 200 spots for the Summer Intensive. Only a small percentage of these Summer Course students are invited to become permanent students. Out of the 200 permanent students who attend the school, approximately 20 students each year sign contracts with companies across the U.S. and around the world. That's ten percent of the original ten percent. When you do the math it's immediately apparent just how few dancers ever “make it.”

Ballet requires strength–incredible strength. Ballet dancers may look like wispy sylphs but they perform choreography so physically demanding it would bring most football players to their knees. Dancers rehearse all day long (and sometimes in their sleep). But here's what's not immediately apparent: emotional strength is far more important than physical strength for ballet. Why? The ballet studio or company is not the kind of place where you'll ever hear, “Good job,” or get a pat on the back. Just the opposite. Dancers must be comfortable having every move scrutinized... and be able to take constructive criticism without melting. This isn't easy for most adults; but most dancers get serious about ballet in their teens. Many of them are on their own, with no family to come home to at night. They have to find a way to dig deep, keep up their resolve, and maintain a positive, professional attitude in the face of sometimes scathing criticism from teachers (or even worse, complete indifference). That's a pretty tall order.

I didn't go to a regular high school, so I never had a prom, but I occasionally attended performances of New York City Ballet when I worked at the gala events. Those were some of the best parties in New York, evenings when everything in life felt magical. Wealthy patrons shimmered in exquisite gowns, the top dancers of New York City glittered like the stars they were, and the huge Lincoln Center fountain sprayed liquid diamonds all night long.

When I started writing the Indigo Ballet Series, I wanted to share these things with readers. Even though it's been many years since I experienced that part of my life, most of it lives on in my memory in crystal-clear detail and I've woven some of my favorite moments and memories into the stories.

No matter who you are or what you're doing, high school years are a crazy, stressful time when you're expected to do it all: excel in school, play sports, volunteer, and be involved in other school clubs in addition to slogging through hours of homework every night. The schedule is so full you have to pencil in time for sleep. Talk about crazy-making! It's a time to discover and use your inner resources, (strength, determination, and intuition) to decide what's right and go for your dreams.

I love writing stories about characters who are figuring out how to meet challenges. Everyone has challenges; that's one part of life that's an even playing field. Even though it may appear that others have it easier, no one gets a pass on this stuff. Everyone has the power to create the lives they want, especially if they believe in ourselves.

You've probably heard the other famous line about New York: “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.” That might be true, but I think that phrase should be reworded: if I can make it through my teens, I can make it anywhere!

May you live the life you dream about. I did, and so can you.

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Author Bio and Links:
Grier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer.

She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of the Indigo Dreams ballet fiction series for young adults and The Daily Book of Photography.

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  1. I was going to ask what inspired you to write this book, but then I saw your short bio and got my answer. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. What is the best thing about being a writer?

  3. Which comes first for you--the story or the characters?

  4. I love the cover!! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. The best thing about being a writer is the magic of writing, those times when the story flows forth and becomes real. For me, characters come first, although I usually have a general idea of what the story will be.

  6. Thank you for the post =)