Meet Sarah Valesano

Apr.3, 2017

As a NWDT company member, Sarah Valesano is a shining example of positivity and resilience, and it is evident when you see her perform onstage. Sarah’s hard work is never ending. In rehearsals, she is always eager and devoted to practice, practice, practice till she reaches that next level of mastery. She participated in the very first Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D.) Dance Challenge competition to be held in the U.S. in 2015, and went on to compete in the 2016 R.A.D. Dance Challenge competition in Vancouver, B.C. Later in the summer of 2016, she attended the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School in York, England where she had the opportunity to train with renown professional dancers from the Royal Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet alongside her fellow company dancer and classmate, Lauren Wattenburg.

During her years dancing with NWDT, Sarah’s stage presence has continued to deepen and reflect a rich range of artistry and technique. She has been a wonderful role model for younger dancers and her peers alike, as she leads by example with hard work, determination, poise, and grace. We wish her well this performance weekend, and while we will miss her presence here at NWDT, we look forward to seeing all she will accomplish in her future endeavors!

We invite you to join us this weekend for A Festival of Dance where you, too, can enjoy and share the great joy Sarah and all our NWDT dancers, as well as our guest artists – the MAC Company Dancers, will bring to this production!


When did you join NWDT, and where do you train?

I joined NWDT four years ago in 2013. I train at June Taylor’s School of Dance.

What is your favorite role in A Festival of Dance?

Rehearsing “Danse Manu” solo from La Bayadère for A Festival of Dance 2017

My favorite role is my solo called “Danse Manu” in La Bayadère! It is a very joyful dance that fits my personality. The whole solo is me dancing around, trying to balance a jug on my head, which has been challenging but a fun experience. It is a very unique role that I have never done before, and I look forward to performing it.

What do you love most about performing?

After all the rehearsals and practice before the performance, my piece becomes engrained in my muscles. So, when I perform, I am able to relax and enjoy the music and movements as I dance. While the music plays, my body seems to just follow the music without any concerns. When this happens, it is an amazing feeling.

Who are you thankful for and who inspires you the most?

I am extremely thankful for my family who is my #1 support system. Always cheering me on through my years of dance, my family has genuinely cared about my interests. My dad is always involved in my dance life, either backstage, or asking me detailed questions about ballet on our way home from dance. My mom cheers me on through stressful ballet exams, tough roles, and travels alongside me for encouragement.

Sarah and Lauren performing in A Nutcracker Tea 2016 “Snow Scene” | Photo: Lindsay Hile Photography

Aside my wonderful family, I am thankful for my best friend and fellow dancer, Lauren Wattenburg. I can always count on her for support and a good laugh while at the studio. Only being friends for a few years, we have travelled the world together, been considered as twins by many, and have become the best of friends. Lauren inspires me daily by the way she is always striving to be a better dancer. We both know how to push each other to reach goals and to grow in our dancing.

I am extremely grateful for Miss June! She has challenged me to become a great dancer and committed hours upon hours to helping me perfect my technique and artistry of ballet. Miss June is a big reason why I love ballet. She knows how to encourage me, make dancing fun, and is always looking out for my best interests.

Lastly, I am inspired to dance by watching videos of the Royal Opera Ballet and other companies. I look up to Natalia Osipova, Darcey Bussell, Steven McRae, Sarah Lamb, and other ballerinas for motivation.

What has been your favorite role during your time at NWDT?

My favorite role was the Sugar Plum Fairy. Growing up, that has always secretly been my dream role. Last December, I was able to perform this role in NWDT’s Nutcracker Tea. It was definitely a difficult dance, but the opportunity to work so hard and perform it on stage was a dream come true.

Performing Sugar Plum Fairy in A Nutcracker Tea 2016 | Photo: Lindsay Hile Photography

What is your favorite company memory?

There are so many amazing memories I have had in company, but one of my favorite times is the long break in-between two shows. I love being with all the girls while we eat our dinner and talk. We always put on warm fuzzy socks, wrap ourselves in blankets, and then rest in the auditorium before another show. It is such a fun time to be together and laugh as a company.

What is on your mind as you prepare for you last NWDT performance?

As my time with NWDT wraps up, I only can think of how I have been so incredibly blessed! These past few years with the company have created so many fond memories and experiences that I will always cherish. Though it is sad to leave, I cannot help but smile. My life has been made so sweet because of the lessons I have learned, and the friendships I have gained because of NWDT.

As I begin a new chapter in my life, pursuing a career in nursing at George Fox University, I still plan on taking ballet classes in my spare time between my studies. Although I am not seeking a career in ballet, dance will always be a great part of my life.


Tickets for A Festival of Dance run $12-18 ($10 for youth)* and are available at Showtimes are April 8 at 7pm to April 9 at 2pm at PCC Sylvania. Please contact 503-925-3898 or email for more information.

*Performance week special offer: Get one free youth ticket with one adult ticket purchase when you enter discount code “freechild”.

Meet Helia Megowan

Mar.31, 2017

If you have seen Helia Megowan perform during the last four years with NWDT, you can agree that her lines, musicality, and immense stage presence are both powerful and exquisite. One of the youngest to join the company, her work ethic and dedication to dance as an art form – both in rehearsal and in the wings – is tireless. She does not rest on natural ability.

Rehearsing Nikiya solo from La Bayadère for NWDT’s A Festival of Dance program

In addition to performing in NWDT’s A Festival of Dance on April 8-9, 2017, she will also be entering for her Advanced II Royal Academy of Dance examination at June Taylor’s School of Dance in early April. In the beginning of 2017, she sent an audition DVD to the highly prestigious John Cranko School in Stuttgart Germany and was accepted to their three year trainee program, which is free of cost and will conclude with an exam for her to became a “staatlich geprüfte Tänzerin” meaning a state-certified classical dancer. Besides dancing all day, she will attend classes in German, English, Sociology as well as Music Theory and History, Dance History, Choreography, Makeup and Costumes. Helia was also accepted this year to the Paris Opéra Ballet School Summer Intensive and was placed in the “Superior” level, as well as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s summer program. She also received scholarship offers from San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive’s Program 2 and Houston Ballet Academy’s summer program. In 2016, she attended the School of American Ballet’s summer program on scholarship, attended class with Houston Ballet Academy over Spring Break, and in 2015 she attended the San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive first program.

You can see her perform the Nikiya’s solo in La Bayadère on April 8th and 9th, 2017, as part of NWDT’s spring mixed-bill program, A Festival of Dance. We will miss seeing Helia perform with all of us here at NWDT, but we are proud of her hard work and accomplishments. We wish her well and look forward to seeing what she will continue to accomplish as a dancer and a performing artist in the years to come!


Where do you train?

I train at June Taylor’s School of Dance.

When did you join NWDT?

I joined NWDT in 2013.

What is your favorite company memory?

My favorite company memory is actually all the time we spend together in the dressing room getting ready to perform. We listen to music, help each other with makeup, and talk about the upcoming performances. It’s a great environment to prepare for a show in because everyone is so positive and friendly.

What do you love most about performing?

My favorite part of performing is the feeling when I first appear onstage – the wonder that the audience feels is priceless, and the story I create for them is worth more than I can say. Of course, I also love the dancing because you can simply enjoy the steps, without having to worry about each specific moment. I’m in a totally different place when I’m onstage.

Performing Snow Queen in A Nutcracker Tea 2016 | Photo: Lindsay Hile Photography

What has been your favorite role to dance? 

My favorite role was being the Snow Queen! The snow scene in and of itself is so beautiful, and I love the music. Getting to be a soloist in that part of the Nutcracker was an awesome feeling, and I think we really created a magical atmosphere for everyone watching the show. I also love it because it was created on me, so it showcased a lot of the things I did well 🙂

At SAB Summer School in 2016

What challenges have you learned to overcome as a dancer?

I have learned that not everything can be perfect on the first try, and that sometimes you have to be patient when trying to learn a step, or a piece of choreography, etc. I’ve also learned to put aside my own feelings and worries so that I can focus on the dancing, and not to let my apprehension or anxiety hold me back.

How has your work with NWDT helped your dance training and academic studies? 

I have definitely benefitted from all the stage time, and the opportunity to perform bigger rolls for an audience. The rep we do is also very diverse, which I love. We perform both original classics and brand new jazz and modern pieces. That has really helped me stretch my abilities and range as a dancer. As for school, being at the studio all the time has made me really manage my time wisely so that I don’t have too much homework when I get home at night. I’ve learned to be more motivated and procrastinate less.

Who are you thankful for and who inspires you the most? 

Rehearing role of Nikiya from La Bayadère

That’s a big question – I’m very thankful to my first ever ballet teacher, Damara Bennett, who let me know that ballet was really a possibility and instilled a driven, focused mindset when it came to ballet. She let us know that ballet was not just pink tutus and fun! This also would not be possible without my parents, who drive me to every practice and pay for everything from classes to leotards. I think we’ve spent close to $6,700 on pointe shoes alone! And, last but not least, Ms. June is the teacher who provided me with the skills and technique that I will ultimately need for a career in dance. Without her, there is no way I would be where I am today. She has been an amazing teacher, and a wonderful, caring person to work with. She pays attention to every detail and devotes so much of her time to us. I couldn’t be more grateful for her.

I’m also constantly inspired by ballerinas like Svetlana Zakharova, Maria Kotchetkova, and Natalia Ospipova, to name a few. I love watching my favorite companies and dancers!

What is your favorite piece/role in this year’s spring show and why? 

It’s hard to decide! I love La Bayadère, first and foremost, because it’s such a classic and I have the opportunity to dance Nikiya’s solo in it (my costume is amazing!!!). We’ve worked really hard to match the original Petipa version. I also love our modern piece, Clear Vision, because it feels so good to dance and it has such a chilling effect. It is an awesome piece, and I really think it will leave a lasting impression on our audience.

What are your future plans and goals?

I have a pretty busy summer and school year ahead of me in terms of ballet! I’ll be spending four weeks in San Francisco at SFB’s second program in July, and then I am moving to Germany to train at the John Cranko School. I am extremely lucky to have been chosen for their three year trainee program, and I can’t wait to see what this opportunity brings! I’ll be training all day, but because I’m only a sophomore, I’ll also be attending school at night. It sounds pretty daunting, and the competition is tough,  but I am so excited to be a part of the program – I might even get to perform with the Stuttgart Ballet! Thankfully, Ms. June has prepared me well for a program such as this one.
What lessons will you take away with you from your time with the company?

I have learned to really see things from other people’s perspectives –  why they made this decision, why they are acting this way – and that, along with the ability to work with many different personalities, will be extremely helpful in “real life!” I’ve learned to put others first, to be patient and fair as part of a team. Yes, ballet is definitely an individual’s art, but you cannot be a soloist all the time. You work together as a corps just as much as you get to dance on your own, and it is important to understand that sometimes the beauty is not necessarily in standing out but in making a beautiful, living picture together.

What is on your mind as you prepare for your last NWDT performance?

It’s hard to believe that this is my last performance – that hasn’t really sunk in yet! I’m thinking about making the most of our time together, and working hard to create a wonderful performance that our audience will enjoy. I really want to get in character and make this our best show yet. I’m also so thankful to have been a part of NWDT, and I’m thinking about all the amazing people I would never have met if I hadn’t joined. I’m so lucky to have found them!

Warming-up backstage during A Nutcracker Tea 2014


Tickets for A Festival of Dance run $12-18 ($10 for youth)* and are available at Showtimes are April 8 at 7pm to April 9 at 2pm at PCC Sylvania. Please contact 503-925-3898 or email for more information.

*Performance week special offer: Get one free youth ticket with one adult ticket purchase when you enter discount code “freechild”.

An Interview with Laura Haney

Mar.4, 2017

by Thorey Mountain

Laura Haney, an extraordinary jazz dancer, teacher, and choreographer, was a member of River North Dance Company and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, as well as a company member of BodyVox from 2005-2008. She is a Stott-certified Pilates instructor and has taught numerous dance workshops and master classes across the country. Laura currently directs the dance program and student company at Multnomah Athletic Club, and teaches at June Taylor’s School of Dance. She speaks here with Thorey Mountain in an interview about her upcoming new work that will be premiered at Northwest Dance Theatre’s spring mixed-bill production, A Festival of Dance, next month at Portland Community College Sylvania’s Performing Arts Center.

TM: Northwest Dance Theatre is delighted that you are choreographing a piece for “A Festival of Dance”. Could you tell me a little about it?

LH: The whole piece is entitled “Blue Note Suite” but it is comprised of four different sections, “Night in Tunisia” composed by Dizzy Gillespie, “La Vie en Rose” which was Piaf’s signature song, but the Louis Armstrong version, and “Dance Me to the End of Love” written by Leonard Cohen and performed by Madeleine Peyroux. The final section is Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk”.

TM: What was your inspiration?

LH: I had choreographed “Night in Tunisia” some time back and I always felt that it would be good to use it in a larger work. “Dance Me to the End of Love” is also my choreography. The other two pieces have been choreographed by my colleague, Maria Tucker. Our styles are very similar.

TM: You direct the dance program and student company at the Multnomah Athletic Club and traditionally the MAC dancers have performed two or three pieces at the NWDT Spring Performance, but as a separate entity. What is different on this occasion?

LH: MAC Company dancers will again perform three of their own numbers, but we have also added a collaborative piece with NWDT. Some of the MAC students are dancing in the first section with the NWDT dancers, and both NWDT and MAC Company dancers are dancing in the final section. They each have their own section in the middle.

TM: I believe that you are a jazz dance purist! I know that you feel that it is important that students learn classic jazz dance technique and styles. Your initial training was classical ballet. When did you first become interested in jazz dance?

LH: I trained in classical ballet with just a little jazz and modern. When I was fifteen I saw a performance of the Hubbard Street Dance Company and this changed my whole path. Electrified by what I saw, I knew where I wanted to go!

TM: How did you set out to achieve your dream?

LH: I dealt with pointe shoes for another couple of years, and when I was a senior in high school I attended an audition and was awarded a scholarship to study at Lou Conte’s studio, which is the home of the Hubbard Street dancers. So after high school I moved to Chicago, danced all day and worked in a coffee shop at night and weekends. After four or five months I was offered a contract with River North Dance Chicago. Eventually my dream came true and I joined Hubbard Street. I danced with them for seven years. Although the jazz element was still very important to them at that time, I also danced in some works by foremost modern/contemporary choreographers including Twyla Tharp, Nacho Duato and Jyri Killian.

TM: What advice do you give to pre-professional students who are hoping to have careers as professional dancers?

LH: The most important aspect to succeeding as a performer nowadays is versatility. Ballet technique is fundamental, there is no substitute for it. That is the foundation, but it is essential to be able to dance jazz, modern, tap, and even hip hop. I also encourage students to train their singing voices and acting skills. If I hadn’t had the versatility, I wouldn’t have had a career. After I left Hubbard Street I toured nationally as a featured performer in the Broadway show “Fosse” and was a cast member of the Broadway musical “A Christmas Carol”.

Versatility is alive and well with the NWDT students, due to the choice of program and careful guidance of artistic director, June Taylor Dixon. As well as performing excerpts from the ballet “La Bayadère” and Haney’s “Blue Note Suite”, the dancers will be showcasing their modern dance technique in “Almost Clear” by M’Liss Stephenson, to music by Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds, and in Erin Zintek’s “A Scenic World” by artist Beirut.

Performances for A Festival of Dance will be held April 8, 2017 at 7pm and April 9 at 2pm. Tickets are on sale at Please contact 503-925-3898 or email for more information.

“Possibility” choreographed by Laura Haney for NWDT’s 2014 spring production. (Photo by James McGrew)

Viennese Ball 2017

Feb.22, 2017

Northwest Dance Theatre had the honor of performing January 2017 at the Austrian American Society of Oregon’s 30th annual Viennese Ball. This was NWDT’s 25th year performing for the Viennese Ball and the Austrian Society members said it was the best ever. NWDT founder and artistic director, June Taylor-Dixon, choreographed a waltz set to the “Blue Danube,” a six minute piece that the dancers learned in just four short rehearsals. Miss June said, “the girls looked beautiful and danced like pros. I was so proud of them.” To learn more about Northwest Dance Theatre and our upcoming spring production, A Festival of Dance, please visit or contact us at

Spring 2017 Workshop with Leonid Shagalov

Feb.14, 2017

We are proud to announce that Northwest Dance Theatre will be offering a Character Workshop with Leonid Shagalov on February 17th, 2017, from 6-7:30pm and 18th 5-6:30pm at June Taylor’s School of Dance! Character dancing is a rich form of dance requiring artistry, musicality, and full commitment to the form, which is also a staple of many classical ballets. We are honored to host this event so young artists in Intermediate 1 and 2 or of equivalent training from across the Portland Metro Area can benefit from the opportunity to study with Mr. Shagalov. After receiving his training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and the State University of Theatrical Arts in Moscow, Mr. Shagalov performed with many companies including the Moscow Academic Light Opera and the Beriozka Academic Dance Company of Russia as a soloist and a principal dancer. Mr. Shagalov has been the character dance instructor for the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School since 2004. Please click here to download the registration form and contact NWDT at 503-925-3898 or email for more information.





Nutcracker Tea 2016 Gratitude

Dec.19, 2016

Many thanks to our wonderful patrons and brilliant dancers, artistic director, crew, parent members and volunteers who made all seven sold-out performances of A Nutcracker Tea 2016 such a fantastic success.

This program run proved to be particularly trying as weather conditions hindered our usual rehearsal process and theatre preparation time. The weather even forced the theatre to close and us to reschedule one of our evening shows, but our dancers and production team handled these challenging events with graceful professionalism. We are so proud of them all!

We are also filled with heartfelt gratitude for the support of our donors and patrons. Thank for letting us share the joy of dance with you and for making NWDT possible!

We wish everyone a very happy rest of the holiday season and hope to see you all again in April for A Festival of Dance!


#GivingTuesday 2016

Nov.28, 2016

NWDT is dedicated to fulfilling its mission in making dance accessible to the community. We are committed to providing aspiring young artists the opportunity to perform and enrich the lives of others through dance. Right now our dancers, artistic director, and the production team are busy preparing to perform A Nutcracker Tea for nearly 3,000 audience members. They are also bringing this heartwarming production directly to the community as part of our annual outreach efforts. This past holiday weekend our dancers performed for the residents of Avamere Retirement Home, and on December 3rd, 2016 at 11:00am they will perform for young children and families at the Tualatin Public Library. Then, as soon as January starts, they will begin working in earnest to prepare for our spring mixed-bill production featuring works from La Bayadère, “A Night in Tunisia” – a Jazz suite by Laura Haney, and more. (Performances will be held April 8-9, 2017 – stay tuned for more info to come!)

unknown#GivingTuesday is a campaign that is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s a way to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities by supporting their favorite non-profit organizations. This year we ask that you consider choosing Northwest Dance Theatre as one of the organizations worthy of your support.

In the words of Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Sarah Lamb, “There is service in art, there is worth in expressing emotion and truth through the idiom of ballet and dance. Without art, theater, music and dance, the world would be an emotionless void and the highs and lows of life would be lost.” Please take a moment to make a tax-deductible donation or explore our sponsorship opportunities to learn more about how you can help us bring beauty to the world and touch the lives of our community members through dance.

Every donation makes a difference, regardless of size. NWDT exists because of the generosity of individuals like you! Thank you for making NWDT possible.

NWDT Community Sponsorship Opportunities

Oct.16, 2016

DSC01057Northwest Dance Theatre is dedicated to providing performing opportunities for young artists, affordable quality productions, and programs that bring dance directly to underserved members of the community. These services are made possible because of the generous support from our patrons and sponsors, as ticket sales only cover a small portion of production costs. Come be a part of the NWDT family and help us enrich the community with the gift of dance! Please click here to be directed to our Arts People donation page or contact us at to set up your tax-deductible donation.

Your support helps us make NWDT’s mission and artistic vision possible!

NWDT is thankful for the generosity of contributions made on all giving levels, and wishes to show this gratitude with the following community sponsorship benefits:

Gold Sponsor – (only 5 available) $5,000*
• Recognition as one of our show sponsors announced at beginning of each show
• Personal plaque or sign set up in our lobby at each show
• Logo recognition on Northwest Dance Theatre web site
• Logo included on all printed or promotional materials
• A full page black and white ad included in our Nutcracker Tea program
• Recognition on Social Media-Facebook page
• Invitation to a studio rehearsal
• 6 Complimentary tickets to our spring performance
• Recognition on our complimentary DVD

Silver Sponsor – $3,000- 4,999
• Personal plaque or sign set up in our lobby at each show
• Logo recognition on Northwest Dance Theatre web page
• A full page black and white ad included in our Nutcracker Tea program
• Recognition on Social Media-Facebook page
• 4 Complimentary tickets to our spring performance

Bronze Sponsor- $1,000-2,999
• Personal plaque or sign set up in our lobby at each show
• Logo recognition on Northwest Dance Theatre web page
• A full page black and white ad included in our Nutcracker Tea program
• Recognition on Social Media-Facebook page
• 2 Complimentary tickets to our spring performance

Individual Donor Levels (as displayed in each show program)
• Grand Benefactor ($1,000+)
• Director’s Circle ($500-999)
• Choreographer’s Circle ($250-499)**
• Dancer’s Circle ($100-249)
• Patrons ($5-99)


*In kind donations are accepted
**1/4 page ad for free or an invitation to a studio rehearsal

Support NWDT and shop online at AmazonSmile

Oct.7, 2016

We have exciting news! Now you can support NWDT, your local youth ballet company, by choosing NWDT as your nonprofit of choice when you shop on AmazonSmile! The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price each time you make an eligible AmazonSmile purchase. NWDT would not be able to provide performing opportunities for these talented young artists or bring outreach programs to the underserved members of our community without your help.

Thank you for continuing to make NWDT possible!

Photo by James McGrew

Photo by James McGrew

A Nutcracker Tea 2016 Auditions

Sep.12, 2016
Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin (guest dancer from Ballet Idaho) and Mia Kimura

Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin (guest dancer from Ballet Idaho) and Mia Kimura (NWDT company dancer)

Nutcracker season is in the air! Guest dancer auditions for A Nutcracker Tea 2016 are open to the public, and will be held Saturday, September 24th, for ages seven and older at June Taylor’s School of Dance in Tualatin. Audition times are as follows (please allow one hour for each audition):

5:00 p.m. Ages 7 & 8
5:15 p.m. Ages 9 & 10
5:45 p.m. Ages 11 & older
6:30 p.m. Boys ages 7 & older

Performances will be held at the PCC Sylvania Performing Arts Center on Dec 10-12 and December 16-18, 2016. Come be a part of this magical production! Please contact NWDT Student Coordinator Gail Anderson at (503) 925-3898 or via e-mail at for more information.

(Photo by Carrigg Photography & Design)