“Elaine Valois – My First Ninety,” is showing at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kapaa Public Library.
Called back for an encore presentation by popular demand, this feature-length documentary of long-time Kapaa resident Elaine Valois will show again. Hers is a passionate story about an illustrious life with a dance and choreographic career that reveals her determination, vision and heart through her 90 years of life – “So far,” she adds.
Collaborating with friends and with Kauai filmmaker-director Jana Rothenberg Blay for over a year, Elaine said: “I just wanted to make some sense of it.”
The 80-minute film explores her life through humor, inventiveness, sorrow and heart for 90 years. From current interviews, through boxes of photos, extraordinary performance videos and archival footage, her story unfolds.
“I’m a dancer, a mother, a teacher, a gardener and cook, and an activist. Is there a name for that?” she asks.
Valois keeps on dancing today. A short version of the film was shown at her 90th birthday celebration in September, where she and Gaby Kornmann danced their rendition of Laurel and Hardy’s “At the Ball, That’s All,” to an applauding crowd.
This full-length film begins in the late 1800s with her grandparents in full costumes as circus performers.
“My uncle could do anything with a ball,” she mused. “It was not your ordinary family, as you can see.”
Her talents in theater performance shone early on as she and her colorful brothers create shows that dazzle audiences in their original neighborhood theater productions. She also earns her grit taking on bold and scary challenges that her brothers design for her.
After high school in Napoleon, Ohio, college at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, she began her master’s degree program in dance history at The Sorbonne in Paris. She married and began forming multiple dance companies and dance schools early on back in Napoleon.
“I’m not really built for ballet,” she said.
She focused on the expressive movements of modern dance. Famous interpretive dancers such as Shirley Mordine, Bella Lewitzki, and the Theater of the Open Eye visited as guest resident artists as her Theatre, Film &Dance Department at the University of Toledo grew in number and prominence.
Her university troupe first wrote, then choreographed, the music from the Who’s album, “Tommy.”
“It wasn’t a musical, it was a piece of music. No script. Nothing,” she said. “We wrote the script and it became a story. A rock opera with movement.”
She saw the PBS series “The Tribal Eye,” where indigenous dancers in native costumes, moving to tribal rhythms, wetted her passion to explore. She deepened her look into movement, consciousness, and the mind-body connection through the “World of Dance as Living History.”
Her company, The Valois Company of Dancers, formed in 1974, regrouped and performed a reunion concert, celebrating her 25 years of teaching. The performance showcased the creation of mankind in a new and creative expression at the University of Toledo.
In 1998, she relocated to Kauai, where she continues to teach, inspire, and create innovative, explorative dance and movement workshops with other Kauai artists.
“My First Ninety” will be shown to Kauai audiences and will become a part of her vast archive at the University of Toledo.
All are invited to the encore presentation of “Elaine Valois – My First Ninety.” Pupu will be served. The film is PG rated.