The inspiration for this series really began when I was a tiny, little girl, sitting in the dressing room of my mother's ballet company watching the dancers prepare to go onstage. From that moment on, I have been enthralled and fascinated by the secret life of the dancer.

As the daughter of a ballerina and a student of dance myself for years, I have been able to experience first hand the discipline, pain, emotion, passion, solitude, sweat, intense concentration, total commitment and endless hours of rehearsal that go into each performance. Through these images, I have tried to capture the magic of that moment that bridges the gap between reality and fantasy.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Stephen Mills, for his generosity and trust, and to the wonderfully gifted dancers of Ballet Austin. Thank you all for sharing your lives and your art with me, and for granting me passage into this captivating, intimate world.

This series is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my radiant, remarkable mother, Josephine Shields Neal, who first taught me to dance.

Hannah Neal