Director blossoms in artistic work

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Valerie Silks has been involved in the local arts community for 20 years

By Kirsten Laskey

Sometimes the simplest action can act as a seed; it takes root and blossoms into a whole new passion.
That occurred to Valerie Silks, executive director of Dance Arts Los Alamos, when she took her children to dance classes at DALA.
“At first, I was a ballet mom … just because my kids started taking classes there. I was impressed with the faculty and the quality of dance instruction,” she said.
That first impression became the seed which grew into her desire to do more with the organization. Silks initially served as a board member, then as board president. She moved on to teaching and finally to serve as DALA’s director.
Silks has served as DALA’s director for a year-and-a-half. She still teaches and currently instructs 10 classes a week, which includes creative movement for young children, tap and ballet.
Silks’ contributions to DALA have earned her praise from colleagues.
Christin Severini, who oversees DALA’s ballet curriculum and program, said, “As a fellow dance instructor and director at DALA, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the work that Valerie does.
“As long as I have known her, her goal at DALA has been to bring quality, professional dance education to the students and she is passionate about this, always going above and beyond to ensure that the students receive the best possible dance experience possible. “
As the executive director, Silks oversees the entire faculty along with the organization’s programs.
“Valerie goes above and beyond to ensure that the DALA faculty are supported and feel appreciated. As a ballet instructor, director and choreographer, I feel blessed to be involved with an organization that promotes individual growth and encourages artistic expression. Valerie’s vision for DALA has facilitated its many areas of development, and the success of the school is due in great part to her leadership,” Severini said.
One of the successes that Silks and her colleagues have accomplished is DALA’s growth.
“DALA has grown
tremendously,” Silks said. “When I was first at DALA they offered primarily ballet … now we have expanded, we have a faculty of 10, we offer dance classes for children age 3 all the way through adult.”
In addition to ballet, DALA offers Pilates, yoga, ballet and musical theater for adults. Plus, the dance studio has expanded into hip-hop and highland dancing. “We’ve got something for everybody,” Silks said.
One of the perks of being involved in DALA is teaching various types of dance to the kids. “The youngest dancers are among my favorite to teach. It’s my job to introduce them to dance and all the magic and wonder of dance,” she said.
Silks discovered this magic herself as a ballet student. She trained for 12 years at the New Jersey School of Ballet and majored in ballet in college. Then, Silks had a change in direction and earned a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in biology.
However, her heart was always in the arts, she said.
Moving to Los Alamos 20 years ago Silks said she was able to get back to what she loves.
Her passion is not solely for dance; Silks is also a musician. She has played the organ at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church for 20 years.
With the holidays around the corner, DALA is currently preparing for its annual “Nutcracker.”
“It’s a holiday tradition, not just for the community, most ballet (dancers) look back on the wonderful memories of ‘Nutcracker.’ (We) consider it to be a holiday gift to the community,” Silks said.
This year’s production will be particularly memorable for Silks because it will be the final time her son and daughter will dance in the local production.
Silks’ son, Andrew, has followed in his mother’s footsteps. A graduate of the DALA program, he is currently dancing professionally in New York City.