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?
Someone grabs my elbow firmly and I turn to find the new guy leading me to get a spot in line. I scowl at him and then at my elbow. “Um…hi? That’s my elbow.”
“You do not wish to dance?” he says, eyes wide. His accent is silvery, melodic. Also hot.
“Um, no–I mean yes–I mean, you’re grabbing my elbow a little too tightly.”
He drops it like he’s been scalded, holding up both palms in defense. A stray lock of brown hair curls along his temple. “My apologies. Sometimes I forget myself.”
I look at him as I try to appraise whether or not he’s making fun of me, but his face is unreadable. Also I can’t look at it for long or I might get hypnotized. “Riiight,” I say.
We wait in silence, watching the other dancers ahead of us. When we reach the front of the line I see our two reflections–dark and light–in the mirrors that run along the entire front wall of the studio and decide they are complementary. At least it’s nice to have a tall partner for a change; my opportunity to dance with someone my size is limited because I dwarf several of the other boys in the room.
I start to move and feel his hands firmly on my hips. His breath warms the back of my neck and I feel myself flush. Normally I’d take a glimpse in the mirror to make sure my alignment is perfect, but I don’t dare. For reasons I don’t want to admit to myself, I feel nervous and jittery. We face each other and he offers his hand as I come into arabesque. He starts the slow promenade and I chance a quick glimpse at his face. He smiles and I catch my breath. I switch my gaze over to his shoulder and notice that my palm is slick with sweat. I’m so embarrassed I feel heat in the tips of my ears. I pray my face isn’t bright red.
He slides a hand around my waist for the dip and I close my eyes. “Relax,” he says into my ear. “I’ve got you.”
Guest post: You Never Forget Your First Love by Grier Cooper
New York City has long been associated with glamour and all of the perks that come with a big city lifestyle; it’s also 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 came to New York City when I was fourteen, leaving my home, my family and my friends behind after I received an invitation to become a full-time student at the School of American Ballet. I’d already spent the past two summers commuting into the city everyday to attend the Summer Intensive at the School of American Ballet, but it was thrilling to take the next step with my ballet career and move to New York. For the next four years, I lived and breathed ballet in the Big City, with all of its perks and challenges.
I had a lot to figure out at first, like how the city was laid out (did Madison come after Park Avenue, or was it the other way around?) and which bus went where. I had to find a way to squeeze school into my busy ballet schedule (I spent a lot of time running back and forth multiple times per day across the half-mile between school and ballet) and finding a place to live that was both convenient and affordable was even more challenging (think lots and lots of roommates). But eventually I fine-tuned all the details and my life existed in a one-mile radius on the Upper West Side, with Lincoln Center and the School of American Ballet at the heart of it all.
Those years in New York were an incredible time of growth for me, both as a dancer and as a human being, 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), and exploring the city with friends during rare free moments. Mostly, there was a lot of work, both in ballet class and the rest of my waking hours (school, Pilates strengthening classes, homework, sewing pointe shoes…). Most of all, it was a glorious inspiration to walk past Lincoln Center most days and dream about dancing with New York City Ballet some day. Occasionally I got to attend performances of New York City Ballet when I worked at the gala events. Those evenings, 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 Lincoln Center fountain sprayed liquid diamonds all night long.
When I started writing the Indigo Ballet Series, I knew these were things I wanted to share 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. There were a few things I needed to clarify, however, so while I was in New York City a few years ago I took the time to revisit the Upper West Side and see the places where I spent my teens. I walked the halls of the School of American Ballet (now in a completely different building than it was in my day), photographed my old apartment buildings and other landmarks I remembered and walked around Lincoln Center. The area is a little glitzier than it used to be, but a lot of it remains the same.
They say you never forget your first love. I suppose that’s why New York lives on in my heart.
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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.