Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Valerie, former dancer at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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How did you first find out about Dance Parade?  
It was a dark and stormy night when I met Executive Director Greg Miller and first heard about Dance Parade.  At 5 Rhythms, his dancing and enthusiasm for his fellow dancers were contagious – not like the flu – more like a beautiful dream. I met Greg and he mentioned that he was involved with Dance Parade – so, like many others before me, I Googled it. It was love at first sight. I felt as though I had come home – one event that said and did everything I have ever believed that dance could make possible – real unity and joy through the art we all love so much.
 
What is your current role in Dance Parade, Inc? 
My current role is as a Board member.  What an honor to serve in that role. The best one of my dance career!
 
What is your favorite style of dance to watch? to participate in? 
I am a dance junkie. I am terrible at hip hop and find that classical Indian dance has some squatting movements that are not working with my knees. Otherwise, I will try and can love any kind of dance – especially, swing. Throw me around a dance floor and I am in heaven.  My favorite dances, as an audience member, are ballet, modern dance, Flamenco, classical Indian dances, any kind of ritual dance, African dance, tap dance, Scottish highland, Russian folk, and any kind of dance that hails from South America.  Did I leave anything out?
 

What is your dance background or interest in dance? 

I started dancing the second I could walk. My dad used to play Mozart for me as a child – and my African nannies played Bantu radio and laughed when I, a little white girl, danced to their music. I am so grateful that my parents allowed me to study ballet and modern dance – with the dream of becoming a professional in New York City. At sixteen, I realized that dream by being selected to be in the Eliot Feld Ballet and then, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was my privilege to dance for many downtown choreographers and companies as well as touring internationally presenting solo dances by many dance makers who shared their dances with me. Since then, I have trained many dancers who are now dancing in companies around the country. I plan to dance until I die.

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If you could share the stage with anyone in history famous or not, living or deceased, a trained dancer or not, performing a routine choreographed by yourself…who would it be? 

I really want to dance with Savion Glover – and Baryshnikov – and the Dalai Lama, and you.
What does this year’s theme “Dance For Peace ” mean to you? 

I cry when I think about this – Dance For Peace — our world needs healing and connection. What is more beautiful than a free human spirit – a free human being – and the joy of moving our bodies? What better way to find joy than through dance. If we could all dance together – take hands – shimmy, shake, share ourselves – we would have peace. I can’t think of a better thing to dance about, can you?

What dance group or dance style are you most looking forward to seeing this coming year in the parade? 

I like seeing men dance. Americans need to get over themselves and the idea that men don’t dance. They sure do! So, give me some stomping guys with cool guy moves!

If you could pick a Grand Marshal for this year’s parade….who would it be? 

The grandest Grand Marshal is anyone who wants to be Grand Marshal and believes wholeheartedly in Dance for Peace. Is Bono available as a back-up?

If you could pick another country to hold a Dance Parade and Festival….which would it be? 

South Africa is a beautiful country with a legacy of pain. The music and dances of the African tribes in South Africa are beautiful and it would be great to celebrate how far the country has come through dance. When I danced in South Africa, years ago, black and white dancers couldn’t be seen in public together – let alone dancing. Today, the country is racially open – but the fight is not over – South Africa is fighting scourge of AIDS. So, I say – let’s go there!

Volunteering at a non profit organization can at times be daunting and frustrating with limited personnel and limited funding….what is it that keeps you coming back for more and more?

The whole Dance Parade community is dynamic, talented, smart, funny, artistic and cool in the best ways. We have Greg to thank for making us all welcome in this community – and, I believe that together, we are going to change the world. Dance Parade is all about community – and it speaks to the way people refer to a group of dancers as a, dance community. What could be more compelling? Nothing . . . right?

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Describe a special memory you have from Dance Parades past? 

I have only been to one Dance Parade. That was last year – the 10th anniversary of this event. I stood on a float and rocked my body for two straight hours. By the time I got off the float at Tompkins Park, my endorphins were doing leaps. Getting happy and feeling joy matters. My brain was reprogrammed – and, I was hooked on Dance Parade.
What pitch would you use to attract a new volunteer onto the Dance Parade team?

Just come to the Dance Parade – and, then – try to resist joining us. Bet you can’t.