Valerie Rochon

Project: Engaging in archival research on choreographer and dancer Jean Leon Destine in order to catalog her collection of his work and finish writing his biography.

Valerie Rochon is a dancer and award-winning dance educator with more than 35 years of work experience in the dance field from around the country. After achieving the honor of being the first African American to graduate from the dance department at Arizona State University, she continued to be a trailblazer by establishing the dance program at South Mountain High School, prominent in South Phoenix. The impetus to form the dance program was to honor the residents, predominantly people of color, with an “equal“ opportunity to engage in dance as an expressive art.  

She went on to a national and international performance career, including traveling to Africa and the Caribbean with the Wajumbe Cultural Ensemble, Izulu Dance Theater, Sarafina!, Shelia’s Day and others. She studied and performed works by the pioneering Haitian choreographer Jean Léon Destiné and other notable dancers of the 20th Century. In addition, she does independent research on African dance companies in the diaspora. In 1984, Valerie conducted a research project on African American dance companies in the United States and its Territorial Trust States. She compiled the results and published the first African American Dance Directory, TAADD (copy written, 1984). A large body of TAADD’s research is housed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 

Valerie earned a Master of Arts and Dance Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has had a lengthy career teaching dance and facilitating city-wide professional development for the New York City Department of Education. After retiring in 2013, she has gone on to consult with the NYCDOE teaching mini-courses on dance legends, and she is currently a mentor for the Arnhold New Dance Teachers Support Program in New York City.