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Booktalking "A Young Dancer: the Life of an Ailey Student" by Valerie Gladstone


Four hours of homework a night, dance three times a week... and school. But it is worth it for one thirteen-year-old dancer who has been dancing since she was four. Dancing makes her feel free, and she loves expressing her emotions through movement. Her Ailey friends keep her company in the dance studio, and she chats with another set of friends at school. She loves being in the dance studio, and she may become a professional dancer one day.

It took years for the girl to get all of the way down to the floor in a split, and she stretches every night to retain her flexibility. She studies ballet, jazz, modern, West African, Horton dance (named for Lester Horton, Alvin Ailey's mentor), and Limon dance (named for choreographer Jose Limon).

When not in the dance studio, she studies Greek mythology in school and the violin at home. Playing the violin helps her understand the music that she dances to in ballet since it is written by the same composers. She is excited to advance to the next level in dance and expand her kinesthetic skills.

A Young Dancer: the Life of an Ailey Student by Valerie Gladstone, 2009

 2029188I was very surprised and delighted to find this book on the shelves of the Grand Concourse Library children's room while browsing for books about dance. Who knew that I could find a book about a dancer who is enrolled in the Alvin Ailey dance school, which is affiliated with The Ailey Extension, my new dance studio!? I love the feel of that dance facility; everyone is nice and polite and excited about dance.

Alvin Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1958, which is an African American dance troupe, and he founded The Ailey School in 1969. In 2004, the dance company moved to The Joan Weill Center for Dance at 405 W. 55th Street (at 9th Avenue), which is the largest building devoted entirely to dance in the United States. Their web site features art and design similar to that which adorns the outside and inside of the building, and it gives customers the same feeling that they get when they walk into the building.

I took an amazing West African dance class on Saturday morning, and I have discovered a love that I did not know that I harbor for African dance. I love the jumping, enthusiasm and energy incumbent in that style of dance. It is active, but not exhausting. I find it to be very fun and exhilarating. With West African dance, it seems that most everything involves jumping. I am interested in trying their Samba/Afro-Brazilian classes, as well. Many of the instructors at The Ailey Extension are former professional dancers.


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