Allison Holker Boss on Dancing, Resilience and Finding Her New Normal
Allison Holker Boss has been dancing since she was 18 years old—and now she’s inviting her fans to embrace a love for movement too. Holker Boss’ new children’s book Keep Dancing Through—penned with her late husband and fellow dancer Stephen “Twitch” Boss—follows a day in the life of the Boss family. It emphasizes the importance of positive self-talk, resilience, and finding joy in the chaos of life—something Holker Boss has embraced wholeheartedly. The Bump caught up with Holker Boss to chat about being present as a mom of three while navigating this new life chapter. Here’s what she had to say.
The Bump: You and Stephen created Keep Dancing Through in the summer of 2021—where did the idea for the book come from?
Allison Holker Boss: When I first had Weslie, which was 15 years ago, I wanted to write her a book. Every night, I read her story after story, and we just connected so much. Then we’d start telling our own stories—we’d just be like, “oh, let’s talk about a dinosaur,” and we both would just riff back and forth. Then she started writing a lot, so we always shared this connection for storytelling. For me, it was a goal for us to write something, but then life gets busy. Things start getting away from you. I think that spark came back alive again after I had Maddox. We would do storytime with my late husband Stephen and our son Maddox, and Weslie would come in and join. We just started putting that energy back out there, and it finally came to pass.
It turned out to be the story of who we are, which is even more incredible. We got to tell the story following a day in our lives. We focused on each of my three kids, their different personalities and the different challenges they face. The whole book is really about picking each other up and lifting each other up through hard times—and I still believe in that to this day. There’s a reason why this book came about the way it did. It was meant to be a place for my children to go back and feel encouraged and feel strength. It’s also a beautiful memory with someone that we all love and miss and respect so much.
TB: What does the book mean to you now as you navigate this new season of life?
AHB: My family has always believed in affirmations. I always say to my kids, “you have to be the kindest person to yourself because you talk to yourself the most.” There are little affirmations I teach my kids, and we add on to it every year. Right now, every morning my kids say, “I’m strong, I’m smart, I’m beautiful and kind.” And there’s a new one that we added because of everything that we’ve experienced: “We do the hard things,” and, “Your words become your reality.” I say all this because when we wrote this book, obviously we didn’t foresee our lives being the way they look now. But the lessons that we’ve been teaching my children have prepared them to be able to handle and be strong through this.
I’m still the person I was then, but with more of a purpose—that message hasn’t changed. If anything, it just grew and became louder for me. I’ve always taught my kids to keep dancing through. You have to be your strongest advocate, and you have to be your biggest champion. Root for yourself and find your own inner strength. I was blindly doing that just to help them through life, but now it’s required for our success. It just feels like it has a lot more depth now, and I’m really grateful it’s something that we had already done because my kids embrace it so much.
Though it’s sometimes scary and feels really hard, I know I’m being carried by the universe and God to really share this and hopefully help others. Quite literally, we’re going to keep dancing through, and I love that my husband got to be a part of that message for my children. He’ll always be a part of that.
TB: What advice do you have for parents or anyone currently going through a challenging time?
AHB: I used to only cry in private because I always wanted to be so strong for my kids. To be honest, the amount of people that have ever really seen me cry was very, very small. This year, I learned the importance of letting my kids see me weak. To be honest, I felt most of my mom guilt from that at first because I didn’t want them to see me so vulnerable. I didn’t want them to think that I couldn’t pull my pieces back together if I was crying in the corner, or if I was crying while pouring them a glass of milk. Then I realized, how are they going to feel comfortable doing that for me?
Now I’ve seen them be super vulnerable with me as well. If they don’t know it’s safe, they won’t do it either. What I want for myself and my kids to understand is that you’re going to—for the rest of your life and for all of life—experience many emotions at the same time. It’s more the choice of which one you’re going to lean into. So I’m trying to just teach them to navigate that you’re always going to feel a multitude of things, and that’s okay.
TB: Having a public presence can be hard—particularly as you face challenges and difficult personal situations while also trying to parent. How do you take care of yourself and protect your mental health? What do you do for self-care?
AHB: A really big thing that my therapist taught me is that it’s okay to allow people to open up to you about their different experiences and opinions. Sometimes you agree, and sometimes you don’t. Whether it’s said to you, or about you, or through social media, you don’t have to actually take it in. That was something I was trying really hard to learn, but I needed something visual. My therapist asked me to start imagining a mirror. Sometimes when I feel it and deem it necessary, I use that technique. I allow people to talk to me or say things or for things to be said, and I just put the mirror up because, as long as I know who I am and the people dear and near to me know who I am, I can allow people to express themselves, but I don’t need to take it in.
With all that being said, though, I’ve experienced things so big and so publicly, I’m really grateful for the support I’ve had. There are so many people that have followed our family since I was 18 years old, and they’re just standing so strong for us and sending us so much support and love and so many prayers. I feel all that every single day. Even with this book, I just feel like this is a way for us all to heal together because our family has been so public. It affects me, and it affects my kids, but I understand that it affected so many people.
TB: Along with this book, what are some ways your family continues to honor Stephen’s memory as you walk through your daily lives and routines?
AHB: I allow my kids to talk about it. We don’t hide from anything. We don’t run from anything. It’s a new journey, getting comfortable with the new normal, but I always allow them to talk about it. I think that’s the easiest way for healing—it’s not something that we ignore, but we also don’t make it a daily practice of bringing it around so much outside of when it naturally happens.
TB: As your kids are getting older, what’s been one of the most surprising lessons they’ve taught you?
AHB: There are so many lessons—all of my kids have very, very different personalities. Yes, I’m their parent, but there are some things I don’t know. I’m willing to be a student of life and admit this to them. If they come to me for something that I don’t know, I want to figure it out together.
My oldest daughter Weslie is so naturally skilled with boundaries and standing up for herself. I’ve always been so impressed by that. It’s such a beautiful quality that’s really hard to instill in someone naturally, but she encourages me all the time to really stand up for myself. And then Maddox constantly reminds me to just be a kid. He has this vivacious personality where just everything is a playground. He teaches me to live in the moment. My youngest—she’s only 4—and she’s so lovey dovey, and she always wants to cuddle until she’s like, “You know what? I need alone time.” She’ll walk up to her room and go take some space. I just think that’s so impressive.
TB: Along with affirmations, do you have any other healthy habits you’re hoping to pass on to your kids?
AHB: One thing I started doing, that I would say I put on the backburner for years, was hanging out with my friends. As a mom of three with work [and life], it would be so easy for me to cancel on friends. Everyone always understood that life is busy, and I even thought for a long time, “I’ll hang out with them when I have more time.” But now for me those relationships [are too important]. Now, I’m really dedicating time to my kids individually, to myself, but also to my friends and family. That’s something that I think has been really crucial at this time.
TB: Looking ahead, you’ll be a judge on So You Think You Can Dance—it’s kind of a full circle moment! What are you looking forward to most as you return?
AHB: Being back at So You Think You Can Dance is just such a dream. That place is home and it’s somewhere I feel my best. I feel so good being in that space with people that, first off, I love, admire and have known since I was 18 years old. They made it so safe for me. Even the dancers that we’ve already been seeing, I just feel so connected to them, and I know I can help them on their journey. I was helped on mine, so it’s definitely a full-circle moment.
TB: Do you and your kids have a favorite artist or genre of music that you like to dance to?
AHB: Bruno Mars is such an easy bet. It’s such a vibe—it’s the right rhythm, right timing, and it’s clean. Also everyone knows it and likes it for the different age categories. So I always find that to be the best.
TB: What does dancing represent for you and your family?
AHB: Dancing for us is a way to bring love and joy into our home. Sometimes, words— at least for our family—aren’t enough.—We actually have to get that energy off of our bodies. So we’ll just move and get up and just be silly together. Whenever we have music or dancing,it just feels like freedom.
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