DANCING SPIRIT by Judith Jamison


An Autobiography
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 Jamison, a major figure on the American dance scene, is best known as an Alvin Ailey leading lady and muse; she has lesser credits as a choreographer and teacher--and is now cause for excitement as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She's also a very proud, private woman, and while we get a good understanding here of her development and sense of purpose, she keeps us firmly at arm's length. Jamison grew up in Philadelphia, and her parents have been towering figures in her life: ``My parents, born and raised in the South, met and settled in the North. I'm moved by contraries, by opposites, the strength that was my mother's eyes, the beauty of my father's hands.'' Growing up, Jamison and her brother were exposed to all that cultural Philadelphia had to offer--and black Philadelphia was in full bloom then. Thus, Jamison's ballet training began early; she was eventually ``discovered'' in a master class by Agnes DeMille. Jamison goes on to chronicle the early years as Ailey struggled to establish his company, the incessant touring, some of her relationships with other notable figures of those years, and her development into a sought-after guest star. Her narrative is sometimes sketchy and bewildering as she skips around the years, but she's more focused as she describes the more recent experience of her artistic directorship following Ailey's death, in 1989. Throughout, Jamison comes across as almost offhand about her talent--it can be hard to catch a glimpse of her passion. Meanwhile, as a woman of deep religious faith, she says, ``I've always believed that my life has been predestined; all I've had to do is be prepared.'' With that as background, readers may not get a feeling for the hard work and intensity undoubtedly necessary for Jamison to have succeeded as she has. An interesting chronicle of Jamison's development and philosophy--but the woman remains an enigma. (Forty-five b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-42557-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993