“I danced with Nureyev”

By G. Zaragosa

 

Valerie Valentine came to Amsterdam in 1973, all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake isn’t just far in distance from Amsterdam. It is a whole world away.

I spoke to Valerie at her Ballet studio in the Jordan. Over coffee, she told me about her early days.

“I came here in 1973 as a dancer for the National Ballet. I was their youngest member at age 17. I lived in a small room with no heat and no shower, I paid 375 Guilders (about 160 Euros) a month.”

The building burned down after 3 months because neighbors were storing heating oil that caught on fire. She stayed with a girlfriend for a while then did a quintessential Amsterdamer thing, she cracked a house. That is she broke into an unoccupied building, got the lights and water turned on and moved in. Housing is one of the big hurdles for expats.

Her career as principal dancer for the national Ballet brought her before the Queen of the Netherlands, who is a great fan of ballet.

“I was nervous and fell 3 times. At least the queen remembered me. She called me the ‘girl that always falls’.

“So you danced with Nureyev,” I asked.

“Yes, in 1987 but he was in his forties, not in his prime.”

I asked her what he was like.

“He was arrogant,” was the first thing she told me.

“He was very talented. He played the piano, harpsichord and he was smart too.”

“He had a masseuse named Luciano that went everywhere with him. He was always mean to him but no matter how badly he was treated, Luciano was always backstage waiting for Nureyev.”

“He didn’t like women very much, except for Margo Fontain, his favorite dance partner.”

After performing, he liked the company of rich women counting Liza Minnelli among his friends. Sometimes though he preferred other entertainment after a show. Nureyev would cruise the streets to pick up guys.

Valerie does not actively dance anymore and divides her time between The Netherlands and France where she has a home.