Living in the limelight: Profile on Jill Vallery

Santa Ana College alumna Jill Vallery jumped from working at a dance shop to the biggest stage on Earth.

She should feel a little tired, a bit jet-lagged, her feet should hurt and her legs should ache. But Jill Vallery feels great.

Days after completing a European tour, the former Santa Ana College dance student and now Broadway musical swing dance captain is on a national tour with the Tony Award winning musical Fela.

The musical is about the life of Fela Kuti, a legendary Nigerian musician who founded the Afrobeat movement and was active in his country’s politics.

“There is something to say about an artist who continues to push forward,” said Vallery.

While attending Irvine Valley College, Vallery was not satisfied with the school’s dance program.

“I wanted to be like Paula Abdul,” Vallery said.

Vallery was first introduced to the world of dance when given her first pair of ballet shoes as a little girl.

Years later, like most college students, Jill Vallery worked a part-time job.

Little did she know that working at Hills Dancewear would lead to a career as a professional dancer.

One day, a customer walked into the dance store — former professional dancer and choreographer Sylvia Turner, who at the time was SAC dance department chairperson.

Vallery helped Turner, who is now the dean of fine and performing arts, find a few items. While engaged in conversation, Turner learned of Vallery’s dissatisfaction with her dance classes.

“I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know who she was, I just wanted to help her,” Turner said.

Two months later, Vallery was enrolled in the dance program at SAC.

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During the summer after her first semester at SAC, Vallery won a competitive audition to attend a summer workshop at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in midtown Manhattan.

“I didn’t know how far I would go,” said Vallery. “It’s been eye opening. I’m moving on faith and just believing that it’s my destiny.”

Vallery’s short time on the East Coast motivated her to spend hours of training as she perfected her technical skills. Confident with her fundamentals, she moved back to New York.

“It’s a huge achievement that she is training other dancers. She is on tour traveling to Nigeria and across the nation. This is huge,” Turner said.

Fela will be showing in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theater from April 25, 2012 to June 3.

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