Valerie Halsey is a senior at Principia College from Alton, IL, with a double major in religion and global studies, along with a minor in dance. She began dancing ballet as a young child and she shares her why for dance in this Q and A format after I interviewed her in early March:
How long have you been dancing?
“I have been dancing since I could walk, I was enrolled in a ballet class when I was two or three, and I have been dancing ever since, pretty much. Different styles and different commitment levels, but dancing ever since."
What made you want to start dancing?
"I suppose it wasn’t really my choice at the beginning, but I guess what made me continue dancing once it was my choice, cause I think when I was about seven I was given a choice of “do you want to keep dancing or we can find something else for you to do?” So the options were there and my sister had also been dancing with me and she chose not to continue dancing but I did, because it’s such a joyful thing and it sort of allowed me as a youngster to get out all of my energy in a creative productive way. Then from there I just sort of fell in love with the process and with how it made me feel and I just kept wanting to get better. "
What kind of classes did you take?
“From the ages two and three to six, I took baby ballet classes where they teach you how to tuck your tummy in and pointe your toes, and stuff like that. By the time I turned seven I was enrolled in ballet and jazz classes because we moved and I came to a new studio and they put me in new classes, and at that time it was my choice to keep dancing. So I was in ballet and jazz classes, as I got older I was enrolled in tap classes and modern classes, eventually my ballet class turned into ballet and pointe, so I had two ballet classes, one was in ballet slipper shoes and one was in pointe shoes, and so I started dancing on pointe when I was in 6th or 7th grade. Then in high school, I had a ballet class and just casual dancing. Then in college ballet classes from there.”
Why do you choose to dance today?
"It is the ultimate expression for me, it’s creative and it’s free and there is no real limits on it, it’s like however you can move your body is your limit, right?, and so the more you do it the easier it is to move your body in different ways. And sort of that
universe of creation is always expanding, the more you do it, the more you can create, the more opportunity you have, to do it more, to create more, sort of an upward cycle. I do it because I love it. "
Do you feel like you’ll keep dancing after college?
"Yeah, probably not in such an extreme way, but I am going to try to find classes that I can take when I graduate just so I can keep up with it, but its also one of the potential career paths I have thought about for myself as a dance teacher because it is something that I love and something I love to share. Maybe I’ll end up doing that, I mean I can really imagine myself as a 60 or 70-year old woman who is like “pointe your toes”
How do you feel when you dance?
"It depends on the dance, most of the time I feel energized and happy to be there. Everybody has their bad days and so sometimes I get really frustrated but that is just something that you have to work through. This semester I’m in Irish and that is incredibly difficult because it is the opposite of ballet in terms of putting your heels down and bending your knees. So that is pretty tough and I tend to get really frustrated there. But in ballet technique classes I feel really happy and free. It’s a good feeling it’s like coming home. "
"Dancing is like coming home. "
What is your favorite style of dance?
"Ballet...easy, I think the structure is something I really enjoy, because you
always know what is coming next so when we do the barre I feel very comfortable there and because I don’t have to exercise my mind as much I can really focus on the technique and exercising the parts of my body that I need to focus on. It's the one I’m the most familiar with. and I mean dance always pushes you but that one is the is most comfortable."
Do you consider yourself a dancer or someone who dances?
“A dancer, well I think it’s just part of my being, its really hard not to. Dancing is a way for me to process things and so when stuff is really hard or when there are other things going on in my life dancing is something that I turn to or can recenter myself in I guess. I mean I have been doing it for so long and I love it a lot so that’s why I would call myself a dancer instead of someone who dances because I do it more then just casually. It is sort of part of my identity."
These photos were taken at Principia College, In the McVay Center for the Performing Arts, Dance Studio.