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A Young Dancer:
The Life of an Ailey Student

Henry Holt and Co., LLC
(Book Purchase Page)

By Valerie Gladstone
Photographs by José Ivey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
(The Ailey School Website)
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Public Relations Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 10, 2010

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

A Young Dancer: The Life of an Ailey Student, by Valerie Gladstone, is extremely informative and readable for children five years to sixteen. In fact, both girls and boys, who study dance, can relate to the diary-like format, with the narrative told through the lens of thirteen year-old Isman Bright, currently a seventh grade Level 5 student at The Ailey School on Manhattan’s West 55th Street and Ninth Avenue. As a long-time fan and writer-photographer of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Joan Weill Center for Dance, I found the photographs very captivating, as the student dancers’ gestures and joy are prominently in focus.

Isman Bright, a student at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx and a violin student at School for Strings, loves to dance, and her reflections, hopes, and positive outlook are transcribed for this book by Ms. Gladstone with childlike enthusiasm and energy. Ms. Bright describes her Ailey Dance lessons, with ballet at the barre, as well as Lester Horton and José Limón techniques, which explore West African, Jazz, and Modern Dance style and choreography. Ms. Bright is genuinely personal about her strategies to improve and succeed as a dancer, but she finds time to balance her life with instrumental music and school academics.

The photographs within The Ailey School are uncluttered and close-up, with cameo shots of Ms. Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of the Ailey Dance Theater. Mr. Ivey brings to life the iconic Ailey dance styles, as his camera captures the essence of the genres. In a West African dance class, he focuses on the colorful wrap-around skirts. In a Limón dance for a student performance, Mr. Ivey hones in on the bright red-pink, flowing skirts. But, most importantly, his photographs clearly illustrate the students’ inner glow, as the music comes alive for the reader. I wish Isman Bright the best success in her passion to dance. To register a student at The Ailey School, click here for more information. To purchase this book, click here for online ordering. To see an Ailey Extension class (available for adults and youth), click here for a photo-essay.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at