Valerie Madonia Tribute: To Direct Colorado Ballet Academy

ValheadshottreeA community farewell takes place Tuesday, July 30, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Arroyo Telluride.

When we first met in the mid-1990s,I did not speak fluent ballet. And I am still not sure if a revoltarde is something that you spread on celery. But Valerie Madonia demanded and deserved reviews and reviews were my job when I was writing in that decade for the Planet. When I protested the assignment as beyond my pay grade and expertise, Valerie told me to relax and write what I saw and felt. What I saw when she (and the Joffrey Ballet in particular) performed in town brought new meaning to the words Rocky Mountain high: perfect lines, technical pizzazz in general, compelling drama, charisma, warmth, charm, and generosity.

Years ago (around 1997), asked what makes a dancer great, Valerie replied:

She might as well have been describing herself. Those of us privileged to have seen Valerie dance over the years (since 1994) know she too emits an aura that compels our full attention.

A native of Tonawanda, New York, Valerie began her dance training under Maris Battaglia at The American Academy of Ballet. At age 14, she was accepted to the National Ballet School of Canada and entered the National Ballet upon graduation. At the invitation of Mikhail Baryshnikov, she joined the American Ballet Theatre. During her five years with the illustrious New York company, she danced solos in such classics as “Swan Lake” and “Don Quixote.”

After joining the Joffrey Ballet under the direction of the late Robert Joffrey, she received critical acclaim for her performances of many of artistic director Gerald Arpino’s  signature works and danced with the Joffrey for 13 years. During those heady times, Valerie was also a guest artist with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, The Russian Ballet Theatre, and Complexions Dance Inc. (coming to town to perform at the Palm on Thursday, August 1).

In 2004, Valerie became a member of Armitage Gone! Dance, which garnered raves during its spring season in New York and at the Venice Biennale in July.

Valerie has appeared in four  PBS “Dance in America” specials and is featured in a book, “Classical Ballet Technique,” by G.W. Warren.

Valerie founded and directed Alpine Dance Inc. which toured southwestern Colorado. Once she and her family settled in Telluride in the mid-1990s, she created “Intimate Evenings of Dance” (along with superstar colleagues from the dance world), performing at the historic Sheridan Opera House.

Valerie served as artistic director and consultant for Dance in Telluride, helping to establish a five-year residency in the Telluride region for her alma mater, the Joffrey Ballet. She also founded the Telluride Dance Academy, which morphed into Palm Arts Dance.

In 1997, during the opening weekend of the Joffrey Ballet’s summer performances in town, Valerie performed “Round of Angels,” a moving piece created by the company’s artistic director/co-founder Gerald Arpino as an homage to a friend who had died. Below is an excerpt from my review.

“In ‘Angels,’ the long lean lines of Madonia’s lithe body first seem to defy their angularity, softening and bending to heartfelt compassion, then to dare gravity as the dancer becomes lighter than air….”

391I recall a  2004 performance of the white hot “Light Rain,” part of a fundraiser for her Telluride Dance Academy.

“There she was wearing nearly nothing: flesh-colored leotard and tights, her sensuous torso moving in perfect harmony with partner Daniel Baudendistel, who, like, Madonia is an ex-Joffrey superstar. As they performed the pas de deux from Gerald Arpino’s modern classical ballet, the standing-room-only crowd at the historic Sheridan Opera House went wild with every erotic twist and turn…”

Daniel always had high praise for his partner:

“A truly great dancer not only can do great feats, he or she understands what those feats are about and communicates the feeling tied to the moves. Valerie is one of those dancers. Her pointe work and her lines are impeccable, but she is also a consummate actress whose emotional range seems limitless.”

Former New York Times dance critic, Anne Barzel would have agreed, having once described Val as “Madonia of the exquisite lines.”

And now Valerie, whose teaching credits include The Joffrey Ballet School of New York, leaves town to take up a new position as director of the Colorado Ballet Academy.

As the director of the Colorado Ballet Academy, Valerie will preside over the year-long dance program that enrolls 800 dancers, ages 3-21, as well as manage the six-week summer ballet intensives.

“The Palm Arts Dance Program and the Telluride community as a whole have benefited tremendously from Valerie’s talent, enthusiasm, and dedication to the art of ballet. She will be greatly missed by her students, the Palm Arts’ staff and all who have known her or ever watched her perform. Fortunately, Palm Arts Dance is looking forward to future collaborations with Valerie and the Colorado Ballet Academy and we anticipate many visits from our dear friend,” said Heather Rommel of the Palm.

Say good bye to Valerie – but hello to the possibility of stronger ties with the Colorado Ballet.

The community party in Valerie’s honor takes place Tuesday, July 30, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Arroyo Gallery & Wine Bar. (Light appetizers and cash bar.)

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