Many great minds have expressed the powerful connection between writing dreams down and seeing them come true, just like 13-year-old Valériane sat at the back of her school classroom and wrote herself a note: “At 18 I am going to the US, and I will study at the Ailey School”. As this talented and dedicated dancer shows, the key to the successful realization of dreams does not solely lie in writing them down: it must be paired with daily dedication and sprinkled with leaps of faith.
Valériane Louisy Louis-Joseph was born into the arts in Nanterre, France. Her French Caribbean upbringing saw her in music rehearsals singing Kompa with her father and getting advice about acting and castings from her sister from a very young age. Her active disposition led her parents to sign her up for dance classes. “Until I was 10 years old, my favorite days of the week were Wednesday to Saturday,” Valériane shares. “From 9AM to 7PM I was dancing everything from modern, to contemporary, to ballet. I also never stopped taking choir lessons and singing with my father and sister.” When the time came to choose and focus on one art form, it was ballet that made the cut. “Through ballet I found my own light. Singing I trained with my father, acting I trained with my sister, but ballet was just for me,” she adds.
Her passion kept her motivated through the many hours of rigorous hard work that ballet requires, even as she faced the difficulties of the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – discrimination for a physique and a skin color that did not fit the “code” of the genre. Nonetheless, her light shined bright, and she won numerous prizes at professional ballet dance competitions, including those at the French Dance Federation.
Though her talent and technique were never questioned, the dance conservatories she applied to would only accept her into their contemporary dance programs. Without faltering, she pursued both, continuing her ballet training in outside dance studios, and remaining resilient against the pushback she received. During one class, a dance teacher told her explicitly that if she really wanted to pursue her dreams of ballet, she would have to leave France.
In the summer of 2015, she was accepted with a scholarship at the prestigious National Center for Contemporary Dance in Angers: she was thrilled. But when she heard that she had passed the audition for the Ailey School after the summer intensive she had taken, she knew where her path lay. The note she had written at 13 years old had come true and the dream had been internalized through dedication: it was time for a leap of faith.
Louisy’s strong faith and dance background supported her when her landing in New York City proved to be rougher than anticipated. Faced with the intense competitive nature of her industry and harsh culture shock, both in terms of living in a foreign country and in terms of the approach to ballet, she recalls how the beginnings were indeed a struggle. Yet again, her talent, experience and motivation not only allowed her to gain her footing quickly, but to thrive in her new environment. During her time at the Ailey School, she dove deep into modern dance and emerged renewed. Through the Graham technique she learned to access her movement from within. Dance went from being based on shapes to being based on sensation and feeling. For the first time, she felt like people wanted to see her personality emerge through dance, instead of keeping it locked up to produce perfect lines and movement. “I was not going to waste my leap of faith, so I retrained my mind and movement. I opened myself to a completely different approach to dance and found myself even more” she says.
Valériane graduated from the Ailey School overcoming both physical and financial setbacks. Her last year exemplified the passion and hard work she has been dedicating to her artform since she was a child. She had her heart set on dancing for acclaimed choreographer Ronald K. Brown, and wrote another note to herself: “I will dance with Ronald K. Brown”.
The dream in the note came true again, and she was invited to apprentice with the company. Her long days went from 8AM to 10PM, from early morning classes at Alvin Ailey to rehearsals with the company, to afternoon and evening classes back at her school. Thrilled to get her first taste of a professional dancer’s life in New York, she found the experience both thrilling and humbling. Her graduation coincided with her becoming a full-time company member of Ronald K.Brown/EVIDENCE, A Dance Company. “I felt like I finally belonged to a community of people and movement,” says Valériane.
The French-Caribbean dancer has performed works by Ephrat Asherie, Darshan Singh Bhuller, Winston D. Brown, Amy Hall, Earl Mosley, and Darrell Moultrie and since then has been working with a number of companies, including Chester Whitmore, Augusto Soledade BRAZZDANCE, and Davalois Fearon Dance. Co-workers and choreographers alike are drawn by her natural gift in dance, impeccable technique, and solid work ethic. “She is fierce, captivating and sets a high standard for the Concert Dance Community,” shares Jamel Gaines, founder and artistic director of the Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet.
A series of life events brought Louisy back to Paris, where she auditioned and was immediately accepted in the Lion King Broadway Production that was premiering at the Mogador Theater. Her evolution and growth as a dancer during her time abroad brought her praises from cast and production. “Her movement is anchored in Black History, and it shows in her interpretations which are not just executed but inhabited. She has a fire inside of her that leads her eagerness to surpass herself in all she accomplishes, using the tools and experience learned in dance for each performance and more importantly when teaching the upcoming generation,” says Julie Colotroc, who danced with her in the Lion King. During her time in Paris, in fact, she taught the Horton technique at the ‘Institut Formation Professionel Rick Odums’ as well as performing eight shows a week. However, it was not enough: the pull to New York was too strong, both in terms of connections made within the dance community and opportunities waiting for her to pursue her career as a soloist. “New York has so much more to offer me, and I have so much more to offer New York. It is the one place in the world where I can truly express myself” she says with passion.
This seems like a win-win situation for the ‘Big Apple’. This city has clearly welcomed her and wants her to flourish. She has already graced many important stages in the US including The Joyce Theater and the Winspear Opera House, and there is much anticipation for her next performances. Valériane is indeed looking forward to participating in new dance projects as well as developing her own, using and fusing her African dance training in different environments and with different techniques. She has a new stack of notes in her pocket and is getting ready for her next leap – or rather – grand jeté of faith.
Read More:Valériane Louisy’s Leaps of Faith: Grand Jetés From Paris to New York City | The Ritz