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Excerpt from They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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They're Going to Love You

A Novel

by Meg Howrey

They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey X
They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2022, 288 pages

    Sep 2023, 288 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Feel what I feel.

Stand with your legs together, toes pointing forward. Open your hips so the backs of your knees are touching. Slide the heel of one foot in front of the other until it meets the toes. This is fifth position.

Under certain conditions (flexibility, training) your two feet will be firmly locked together: heel to toe and toe to heel. Your knees will be straight, your pelvis will sit squarely above your knees. It's not natural but it is elegant. Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man but pulled together and not human spreading all over the place.


Fifth is a position to begin things from. Fifth is a frequent point of return. It's also itself. Movement. Dance, even if it is still.

See what I see.

James is teaching class. He wears a soft T-shirt and a pair of loose sweatpants. The soles of his dance sneakers are split like ballet slippers so he can demonstrate a pointed toe more easily. He's a little vain about his feet, their high arches.

"— And contain," James says, as the dancers close their legs to fifth position. "— And contain."

The class—at an Upper West Side New York City studio—is by invitation or introduction only and filled with professionals. I picture the dancers, spaced out along the barres lining three sides of the room. I see the additional freestanding barres in the center, a spot where I might have stood. I'm not there. This is part of a story that was told to me.

James is prowling the studio in his soft clothes, his soft shoes. Not prowling. Gliding. He doesn't appear to scrutinize the dancers, but they're aware of his gaze, mild but penetrating.

"— And contain," he says.

The dancers think they know what he means by containment. He's asking them to keep their upper bodies still and placed, to not let the motions of the legs disturb the carriage of the torso. To come firmly to fifth position and not rush through or blur the moment. James means a little more than that. He always means a little more. He raises his hand and says, "Thank you, Masha," which is Masha's cue to stop playing the Chopin mazurka she's been plunking out with heavy-handed precision. Masha lifts her hands from the keyboard and picks up the New York Post.

James walks slowly to one of the center barres, where everyone in the room can see him.

"Containment," says James, "is one of the things ballet gives us." He takes fifth position on demi-pointe: heels raised, balancing. He's not demonstrating technical perfection; he is middle-aged and wearing sneakers. He's demonstrating intention.

James steps out of fifth position, impatient with his body. "Music tells us to move, to dance," he says. "But when we are still within music, we absorb all of its power. We are its container. Not every movement needs to go out into the world. We can keep some for ourselves. Contained. Powerful."

James smiles.

"Restraint," he says. His voice confers full sensuality to the word. "Restraint."

Such a subtle thing to describe. "Other side," he says, with a nod to Masha, who rustles her paper down. The dancers turn and place their right hands on the barre. It's still morning, still barre, but the dancers feel James has said something beautiful, or true, or deep. It's why they're here. Even when his words don't make perfect sense, they create an atmosphere that is pleasurable. It's nice to be reminded one is an artist, especially on a Monday, with a full week of rehearsals ahead and a weird pain in your hip.

James looks across the studio, scanning the dancers. To teach is to hope.

His gaze falls on Alex, although he doesn't remember his name. The boy had been brought along by one of James's regular students and introduced as "My friend visiting from Atlanta Ballet."

James has been observing dancers, teaching dancers, a long time. His assessments are swift. He looks at Alex and thinks, Nice but stiff, maybe a late starter, the body is good but—

Excerpted from They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey. Copyright © 2022 by Meg Howrey. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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