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Laurel Valley School of Dance Art Interview with Jill Payne

Laurel Valley Dance Ballet SoloistLaurel Valley School of Dance Art in Hillsboro, Oregon is a community-based school that is open to all. This small community has had an interest and strong commitment to dance for nearly thirty years. If you were to stop by the Laurel Hall you would enjoy a nostalgic step back in time. The wall of interesting photos and the scrapbooks are a marker for the many families and their children who’ve grown up in this small rural community.

Jill Payne, the Executive Director and Dance Instructor, believes that although Laurel Valley is a small school giving every dancer one on one attention, the training is truly professional and of a very high quality. The school’s mission is to promote the development and well-being of children, adults and the community of Washington County by providing dance, art programs and services. They are dedicated to providing quality instruction with a variety of exciting classes. Laurel Valley is proud to offer classes in classical ballet, lyrical, modern, and tap for all ages and levels. We invite parents to become involved and to be part of this community participation.

Laurel Valley’s focus is on the art aspect of dance. Jill believes that where most other schools are turning toward competitions, Laurel Valley emphasizes self-expression through the movement dance art – where dancers are taught to work together to portray an overall vision and to expand themselves through personal goals. Jill emphasizes proper technique for healthy, painless dancing for children, teens and adults. She includes the history of ballet in teaching why and how a step is performed. Jill also brings science and physics into the class to better illustrate how a dance move works. She focuses on a holistic dancer of mind, body and energy coming together to create art.

Laurel Valley Dance Ballet Lyrical DanceJill said her proudest moment as a coach occurred last summer when one of her students was accepted to the Long Beach Ballet summer dance program. She was also the youngest student (age 14) to be included in their Ambassadors to China program. Her student danced in California for three weeks and two weeks in China. This was especially meaningful for Jill, not only as the girl’s coach, but also because Jill had been accepted to the same summer program but was not able to attend due to the costs involved.

From Jill’s viewpoint, the biggest mistakes she sees dancers make is not using proper technique which leads to injury and body burnout. Every body is different and cannot be expected to do what the one next to it can do. She works with her dancers as individuals. Where one dancer can stand and work in a perfect 180 degree turn out, another cannot and should not. Dancers should be trained for the long-haul, not made to overstress the joints for idealistic extensions or be made to work outside proper alignment. Today there is wonderful science-based information about how the body works. Unfortunately, she still sees teachers use old techniques based on harmful information. If a dancer is experiencing chronic injury, they should find a different teacher or consult a physical therapist. They should find someone that will look at their structure and give proper corrections.

Laurel Valley Dance Ballet VariationLaurel Valley School of Dance began 16 years ago and Jill has been with them for 10 years. After 20 years as a private dance school, the long-time owner moved and the school was going to close. A few adult students decided to keep it going as a non-profit. The school is supported through their volunteer board members, their families and community. This year Jill’s goals for the school are just to keep the students growing and developing their art and confidence as dancers.

Laurel Valley School of Dance Art is the first non-profit dance school in Oregon. They believe that all who have the desire should be able to dance. Their tuition is extremely affordable and participation in performances is almost free due to fundraising. Their goal is to create well-rounded individuals through dance art.

Please post a comment if you have had any experience with Laurel Valley School of Dance Art or Jill Payne.

If you would like to know more about the Laurel Valley School of Dance Art, check them out on their website at  Also, you could call them at ­­­­­503-550-1533 or email Jill at
Written By Cyndi Marziani

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