Entertainment

Allison Holker & Stephen "tWitch" Boss's Children's Book Is A Family "Time Capsule"

The couple wrote Keep Dancing Through in 2021, and it stands as a testament to their family bond after his death.

In 2021, Allison Holker Boss and her husband, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, wrote a children’s book. It was to be a day in the life of their family — daughter Weslie (Allison’s child from a previous relationship, whom Stephen adopted), son Maddox, and little daughter Zaia. It was a story about the everyday trials and tribulations that might be made just a little bit better with some family time. For this family, that usually means dancing together. After all, Allison and Stephen met on the reality competition show So You Think You Can Dance, and they became known for their family choreography on Instagram. (Allison would go on to Dancing With The Stars; Stephen would join the Ellen show as a guest DJ and, eventually co-executive producer.)

Keep Dancing Through was their sweet, empowering message of perseverance, a “time capsule” of their family in that moment in time. Little did Allison know between writing and publication that that message would be a vital comfort in the years to come. In December 2022, Stephen tragically died by suicide, shocking fans and family alike. His wife and children now find themselves learning how to move — and dance — through life without him there. Now the book is finally out in the world.

The Boss Family in 2018, before Zaia was born.Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

I’m Allison’s first interview of the day, and she greets me over Zoom with a chipper smile and a big cup of coffee in hand. I want more than anything to be mindful of where she might be emotionally throughout this interview, and tell her so: the subject of Stephen is unavoidable, not only is he a co-author, but his smiling face can be seen throughout the story, beautifully illustrated by Shellene Wright, playing and dancing with his wife and children. And, certainly, his family’s grief is still a main character in their lives. And yet there’s more to Allison, her children, and this latest project, than their loss. It’s a book that captures real sweetness and joy. I ask her about walking that line.

“There were a lot of conversations that happened [in the wake of Stephen’s death]. ‘Is the title okay? Is it too on the nose?’” she recalls. “What I said to everyone at the end of the day is that first off, this book was something we believed in, and I still believe in. I want to do it for him. And also, that's all I can say to my children and for life is that we are going to keep dancing through.”

If you think about it, you talk to yourself more than anybody else does, so you've got to talk kindly to yourself.

The message, she says, has felt like a blessing: a beautiful foundation the family established while Stephen was still alive that would give them grounding and strength moving forward. “Now, ‘keep dancing through’ is not just messaging for my children; I'm going to hopefully share that message with so many other people that might need to hear it. Because that is what we're going to do is keep dancing through.”

And there is dancing, literal and figurative. The day their first copies of the book arrived at their house, for example and they could see the years of work all come together in their hands. The children, who worked with their parents and Wright to consult on how they wanted to be portrayed in the book were clearly thrilled, especially little Zaia, who delightedly listed every member of her family on the cover of the book, ending with an explosive, joyful “Dad!”

“We're so excited. It's been a very long time for our family waiting for this release to happen, so we're just ecstatic that it's here,” she says. “[Getting that first copy] was such a surreal moment. It's real and it's fun and tangible. It was something really, really special for [the kids].”

There was one detail Allison insisted remain in the book, despite the wishes of her eldest child, Weslie. “She has braces in the book,” she smiles. “She had gotten her braces off [before publication] but I was like, ‘You don't get to take those off. It's so cute and this is where you were when the book was written, so you have to keep your braces. That was your preteen era. We must hold onto that.’ This book is going to be like a time capsule for our family.” (As a consolation prize, perhaps, Allison says Weslie, who is currently enrolled in high school and beauty school — “and crushing it” — is going to be doing her mom’s hair and makeup for some of her book tour appearances.)

While the time capsule is a comfort, of course, time has moved on. Allison has incorporated new rituals and moments of joy to help her children continue to grow and thrive even through heartbreak.

“I think there's a lot of different ways I try to deal with any kind of trauma, grief, emotions, heaviness,” she says. She personally opts for meditation. She encourages her kids to use daily affirmations. “If you think about it, you talk to yourself more than anybody else does, so you've got to talk kindly to yourself.” Of course, there’s also dancing, which she says can instantly change the tenor of a room. But she’s also begun ensuring individual time with each of their kids doing something they love: she’ll get mani-pedis with Weslie, head to the trampoline park with Maddox, and go to the park with Zaia. She pauses in her explanation and smiles. “I didn't even realize before this conversation: it's a lot of quality time.”

The Boss Family in 2023.Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

There is no road map to grief: Allison has been in the unenviable position of having to chart her own course in getting through a difficult time and bringing her children through it as well. And, the internet being the internet, many of her social media followers have thoughts on what this time should look like for her.

“You receive so much love and support from so many, but you also receive a lot of opinions about how you should be living your life, without understanding who you are in full,” she says. Her impulse, and advice, is not to simply block it out, but to take everything in ‘through a lens.’ “What I always tell my children is at the end of the day, you have to know who you are and follow your gut and follow your opinions. But it's not necessarily bad to listen sometimes, but if you listen, you have to know and make your own opinion from it, and you don't have to accept everything. Trust who you are, and you'll be able to better navigate that space. But it's not easy.”

Soon, she’ll return to where it started: this March, she’ll be a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, the show where she got her start and how she met Stephen.

Holker and friend Ican Koumaev on So You Think You Can Dance in Season 2.Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

“It comes with a lot of emotion for me,” she admits. “That is the place that gave me my start in the industry. People literally saw me go from a little girl into a woman I am today, and they watched every single step in between. So, I think the audience and people who've followed my whole life have really seen me in every phase of my journey, so to come back to that stage, it felt like home. I'm just really, truly grateful to be able to give back to that community that has given me so much. I think So You Think You Can Dance is the perfect place for me to step into that new field just because it's all of me. It's my soul, it's my love, it's my talent, it's my skill, and it has been already such a wonderful experience. It just felt like where I'm supposed to be.”

Keep Dancing Through is available now wherever books are sold.