From a descent into madness in "Black Swan" to the sizzling chemistry of "Step Up," pop culture has already taught us in so many ways that everything is better and more dramatic when there's dancing involved.
Which is why we're so incredibly excited about "Pointe," a story about kidnapping, eating disorders, sexual assault, repressed memories and sizzling secrets; all set against the backdrop of one gifted dancer's quest to become a professional ballerina.
All that drama, plus pointe shoes? Yes, please: this is one book that's bound to make a splash when it hits shelves next week. And before it does, author Brandy Colbert shared with MTV News the inspiration behind her story, plus a super-steamy exclusive excerpt from her novel.
At its heart, "Pointe" is a story of struggle, shame and redemption for Theo, its heroine: she's a 17-year-old dancer who has almost stopped being haunted by her troubled past, but is thrown for a loop when her best friend, Donovan, suddenly turns up again after having been missing for years. Where has he been, and what happened to him?
Donovan isn't talking — but Theo might know more than she's willing to admit, even to herself.
Brandy Colbert expertly interweaves that mystery and its surrounding drama with the challenges Theo faces on her way to a career as a professional dancer, and anyone who's ever been serious about dance will recognize right away that the author knows her shizz — from the beating a body takes in hardcore ballet training to the peculiarities of friendships that start in the studio.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Colbert drew upon years of training in tap and jazz to make that world feel real.
"Dance was such a big part of my life for so many years that while writing, it was easy to remember things like the very specific smell of the studio," Colbert explained, "that feeling of exhaustion but accomplishment once you've finished a difficult class, and the friendships with other dancers.
"But the funny thing is that while I love dance books, I didn't always plan for Theo to be a ballet dancer. It was once I began revising my very first draft that I realized I wanted the main character to have a passion, something to turn to while her life was unraveling."
Without spoiling anything, let's just say that Theo's life unravels spectacularly — to the point where she can't escape from it in the dance studio or anywhere else. Our excerpt offers an especially tantalizing look at one of her, ahem, distractions.
And though Colbert didn't set out to cram as much drama per square inch into her story as possible, she also doesn't shy away from taking readers to some difficult places.
"I thought POINTE was going to be a quiet story about a girl whose best friend is returned after being abducted," Colbert said. "But I like books that make me cry and get angry and obsess about the characters long after I've finished. It was always my intention to write a story that made people feel something."
When it comes to her own taste for onscreen drama, the author is absolutely on board with the power of dance movies — and yes, she's just as (completely understandably) obsessed with the "Center Stage" motorcycle ballet as the rest of us.
"It is, without a doubt, my favorite dance movie," Colbert continued. "I watched it a lot while I was revising POINTE. I will NOT tell you how many times I've watched the final dance scene, but suffice to say I could probably do a — very poor — version of that choreography in my sleep."
"Pointe" will be released in hardcover on April 10. Can't wait that long? Get a taste now with the exclusive excerpt below:
I look at Hosea and wonder what it would feel like to kiss him. To touch him. To really be with someone like him. He pays attention when I talk. That was one of the things I hated about Chris. He never seemed to take anything I said all that seriously, but Hosea listens. If Ellie weren't in the way, we could be together--really together. No abandoned parks, no quickies against the sink of a gas-station bathroom when I wasn't even sure how to do it in the back of a car. We could hold hands between classes and go on dates and he would be my actual boyfriend.
I steal a look at his hands, strong but almost elegant, and I can't imagine he would ever be anything but gentle.
"Did the drive help?" Hosea dips his head a bit as he looks at me. "Even a little?"
"Yeah." I thread and unthread my fingers in my lap. Smile at him for being so nice to me. "It did. Thanks."
"Good." His hand rests on top of the gearshift, inches from my knee. "You know, Marisa would be pretty pissed if I'd just left you in that diner."
I hold my leg still as can be. Waiting. Wanting. "Why would she care?"
"You're her star dancer. I couldn't leave you all bummed out like that." He smiles a little, then says, "You're special."
"I'm not that special," I say, and it doesn't come out as care¬free as I wanted, but that's okay because it's true. Special girls are worthy of a proper breakup, don't have to wonder if their boyfriend was using them to get to their best friend.
"Right," Hosea says softly. "I know shit about ballet but when you're out there, you look pretty damn special to me."
I'm afraid to look at him, for fear of what I'll see. His voice was serious but maybe he's kidding. Maybe this is the kind of thing he says to girls all the time; maybe it's no big deal that he said it to me. But I force myself to turn my head, to meet his gaze, and whatever this is, it's not just in my head. He feels it, too. It's real, reflected in his gentle eyes. They search my face again, just like earlier at the diner. But there's an understanding this time. A look that will quicken my pulse every time I replay it in my head.
I don't know who leans in first, but moments later we are close enough for our foreheads to touch, close enough for me to breathe him in. I slide my hand up the nape of his neck at the same time he slips his arm around my waist and pulls me closer. We're so in sync, it's like our own private pas de deux, like we learned the choreography years ago, are only now putting it to practice.
Hosea's kisses are whispers, just the slightest touch that keeps me wanting more. He pulls back, looks at me, smiles. My palm is still cupped around the back of his neck as he leans in to kiss me again. Deeply this time so there is no doubt as his lips meet mine; this is real.
I run my hands through his soft, soft hair and he keeps his around my waist, tickles a trail up the small of my back with his fingers. For a while, we are the only two people in the world. A burst of light in this small, dark car, on this deserted road. A tangle of heat and breath and touch and taste and I want to stay like this forever. Being with him is safe and wonderful and--
It's not fair the way he says it as he pulls away from me, like he's the only person who is allowed to say my name. It makes me want to keep kissing him for hours, ignore the fact that we have school tomorrow and my parents expect me home any minute now. It makes me forget about Donovan and whether anyone will find out that Chris Fenner and I used to kiss like this.
Only . . . this feels real in a way that things never did with Chris.
"Sorry." Hosea brings his hand up to my face, where he runs his thumb along the curve of my bottom lip. "We should probably--"
"I know." Of course I should have expected him to pull away. Of course we can't keep going. I kissed him and he doesn't belong to me and I liked it. I'm not special, but I am That Girl.
He looks at my mouth, brushes his fingers against my lips one last time before he pulls away completely. He reaches into the console for his pack of cloves. I sit back in my seat, buckle my seat belt, and pull my phone from my bag so I'll have some¬thing to do.
Hosea pinches a clove between his lips and pulls out onto the street again, en route to Casablanca's. Neither of us says another word and we don't look at each other for the rest of the ride, but longing melts through me in a thousand waves.
Hot and slow and bittersweet to the core.