Valerie Madonia has lived her life through dance. At four years old she began ballet lessons, which eventually led to a 20-year professional dancing career. She has been a part of noble dance companies such as the National Ballet of Canada, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Joffrey Ballet, and performed throughout the Rocky Mountains + Southwestern Colorado with her own project based company, Alpine Dance. She has appeared in six PBS Dance in America Specials and is featured in four dance books.

Valerie has been a leading ballerina, guest artist, teacher, and faculty member of the New School University in NYC, master teacher and adjudicator for the Youth American Grand Prix during her career. She has helped produce and direct residencies here in Telluride with the Washington Ballet, Momix and Rythmec at the Palm Theatre where she now serves on the Board of Directors. In 1998 she founded the Telluride Dance Academy, now Palm Arts Dance, and is returning to Telluride this month after being the Director at the Colorado Ballet from 2013-2017.

How did you start dancing?

I started dancing when my mother put me into ballet lessons at 4 years old. I enjoyed the classes and my teacher saw potential in me, and continued to support me through encouragement and scholarships until I left home at 14 years old to train at Canada's National Ballet School.

What do you love about dance?

The focus, physicality and spiritual connection that is the essence of dance in its highest form. 

Did you always want to teach dance?

Teaching found me and I grew to love it. Through teaching, I've learned to be fearless in how I talk about dance and have found ways to bring out the best in my students through hard work but always staying true to the essence of the art. 

Favorite dance style to perform?

Ballet is the medium I've spent literally 52 years immersed in! But through classical ballet I've performed almost every kind of dance. After dancing in two of the worlds leading ballet companies, American Ballet Theatre and The National Ballet of Canada, I joined the Joffrey Ballet where I danced neo classical, contemporary and modern dance. Later in my career I had the great fortune of working with Alonzo King, whose work is a language all its own. 

Favorite to teach?

I teach classical ballet because it is the base for all other forms of dance but I like to choreograph neo classical and contemporary work. 

What is your favorite color?

Most shades of blue

When was the last time you had a good laugh?

Recently sitting with my college age boys and their girlfriends as we teased one another and enjoyed a meal together. When your kids grow up and become your friends, there is a beauty and joyfulness that is hard to describe. 

What is something your mother taught you?

My mother taught me empathy in everyday living but also that there was nothing wrong with dreaming big. She knew nothing about ballet but knew enough to support me in it, always believing that the right doors would open. I still trust this intuition.

Favorite thing about Telluride?

The quality of life and community that is so intrinsic to these mountains.

What can you not live without?