Dan Valentine – My Sister/My Brother, part 1

By Dan Valentine


One magical, fairy-tale of an evening, back in 1998, my baby sister Valerie—she is eight-years younger than myself—was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

And I was there!

She is one of the few ballerinas and/or Americans ever to be so honored.

Funny, just a few short years before in Manhattan, after my sister had performed onstage with the great Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev—yes, that one!—my mom had doused out a cigarette in the Queen’s half-empty cocktail.  At a reception for members of the Dutch community in town (Walter Cronkite was there), my mom, looking around for an ashtray and not finding one nearby, spotted a half-filled drink and plopped her cig in it.  A moment later, the Queen came back, after a brief newspaper interview, to finish her toddy, only to find a, well, you-know-what in it.

But back to little sister’s knighthood.

Earlier that morning, I had attended a ballet class with my sister.  Ballerinas and their male counterparts take class every day of the week to brush up on their technique and such.  They stretch, move to the Barre, and do sequences in the center of the floor for an hour or so.  This is followed by grueling hours of rehearsals for upcoming and/or present performances.  So, anyway, I was standing by the wayside watching a Russian ballerina from the Bolshoi twirl around and around and around.  We made eye contact and she fainted, dead away.  In my dreams, I caught her in my arms.  In reality, she slumped to the floor.  I like to think it was caused by my George Clooney good looks, but it was probably caused by exhaustion.

That day, for a short time, I was the talk of the company.

Her lifemate, Roeland Kerbosch, an award-winning Dutch film director, had informed me a short time beforehand what was to take place that evening.  I remember smoking—of course! as they say in the Netherlands—by the stage door of the Muziektheater in Amsterdam when my sister showed to suit up.  She told me that she was worried about that night’s performance.  Can’t remember why.  All I was thinking was:  Val, this is going to be one of, if not thee greatest night of your life.

Utah-born ballerina Valerie Valentine, Dutch National Ballet

Valerie Valentine, Dutch National Ballet

Later that evening, Valerie—I call her Val, sometimes Vali—was dancing onstage when suddenly everyone but herself stopped in their tracks.  The conductor put down his baton.  The music stopped.  The performance came to a halt.  My sister, in the middle of a pas de deux or whatever, looked around perplexed.  What the heck is going on?

After a moment, the Mayor of Amsterdam walked on stage and bestowed upon her the Order of the Dutch Lion—the highest honor a non-military person can receive in the Netherlands—in recognition for her 25 years of “significant contribution to the art of dance.”

He read from a scroll:  “Admired for her energy and dedication to her work, Valerie Valentine’s beautiful sense of line, strong technique and expressive, magical stage presence have inspired not only choreographers, but photographers and filmmakers as well . . .”

Needless to say, there was a party afterward.  Cocktails, hors d’œuvres, a band, dancing, etc.  I was very happy for my sister, ecstatically so.  But I left the celebration shortly after it began.

I can’t remember feeling sadder.

Sitting at an outside cafe, just a few a blocks away, was my artist brother Jimmy, uninvited (and rightly so; he was literally crazy as hell), doing his best to drink himself to death, an endeavor he would shortly accomplish.

He died four years later, age 48, in Torremolinos, Malaga, Spain . . . on Valentine’s Day.

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4 Responses to Dan Valentine – My Sister/My Brother, part 1

  1. Valerie Valentine (Vali ) says:

    Hi Ed,
    I danced with Jay in Ballet West before I went to Europe. Jay is artistic Director of The Royal Ballet School in London for a couple of years now. He has a long relationship with one of the best British dancers ever,Anthony Dowell. I believe he is doing well.
    all the best,


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Valerie, thanks for dropping by.

    I wish Utah media had done more to keep people apprised of your career (well, I must confess I didn’t pay as close attention to Utah publications after 1987). I wonder: Are there other Utah, or U.S. expats in the European dance and art worlds we ought to know about?

    There was a kid I knew from Spanish Fork, or Payson, Jay Jolly — who I saw sporadically at the University of Utah. Some short years later I was happily surprised to discover he was dancing with the Royal Ballet in London. Haven’t heard much about him since (well, nothing, really). I’ve often wondered where he is. I had “danced” next to him in a Utah Valley Opera production of “Guys and Dolls.” (He was the dancer — I signed on for chorus speaking parts, no singing, no dancing, but ended up doing a couple of speaking roles, and singing, and dancing. Joys of the theater.)

    Growing up in the vast, non-urbanized areas of the U.S., kids take heart and hope at the stories of people who come out of places like Utah and achieve bold things in the world. Your story ought to be told somewhere (Dan: A few chapters in the next book, perhaps?).


  3. Valerie Valentine (Vali ) says:

    Hi Danny,
    Reading this it all comes back to me, that night. I think of Jimmy a lot.
    Your sister,


  4. thomas says:

    In 1969, I was stationed at Chievres AB, Belgium, the small NATO airfield that served as the SACEUR’s (Supreme Allied Commander Europe)personal airfield. Chievres was actually a WWII Nazi German Casserne complete with brick half-buried bunkers and drafty, cold and damp buildings that looked like Hollywood movie sets. More than once during my time there, the single runway airfield had to be cleared of farm animals from local Belgian farms. Surprisingly, there were no fences around the airfield. There were also rows of crops bordering the edge of the runway. When I first arrived there all of that struck me as odd. Not long after, though, it all seemed abolutely right and proper.

    The Belgians staffed the tower and the small Base Operations Office where I was assigned (halfway up the tower which was more like an old lighthouse) with six men who worked nine to five daily. Most days, there was nothing to do. Absolutely nothing. Nonetheless, there was a Meterologist who closely tracked the weather and prepared reports that were submitted each half hour. No one recieved those reports unless the SACEUR was in town. Most days he was not.

    The reason this story about your sister and your brother, the Netherlands and your mention of Spain – all of that – reminds me of those days in my own life is that it presents so clearly and starkly the simple, beautiful, existential nature of human lives on this small planet whirling around our sun in this Milky Way. Theirs, yours and mine.

    Thank you for your writing. I cherish certain loved ones from my past and I have a fondness for old Europe that causes me to feel such sadness as I grow older. I think you know those feelings. You are a generous and talented writer.


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