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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Apr 02, 2019

The MOTHerview with storyteller Val Rigodon

by Suzanne Rust

Val Rigodon

“Studying ballet and persevering through all that body pain for a year really changed my state of mind, and I think even altered a part of my personality.”

The surprising death of a young acquaintance inspired Val to get on her toes …and hit the barre.

How did you know that this was the Moth story you had to tell?

It was a happy coincidence. The week I started ballet was also the week I went to the CUNY Moth festival. Ballet was the primary thing on my mind and my body. 

The loss of your friend inspired you to do something new and daring--start taking ballet classes. Have you been able to hold onto that "seize-the-moment" attitude? If so, what other bold things have you done?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a very odd thing. Studying ballet and persevering through all that body pain for a year really changed my state of mind, and I think even altered a part of my personality, because since then I haven’t been able to stop doing things, especially new things. I’ve done archery, tried to learn sign language, made homemade wine, went to a gothic dance party, tried to learn the banjo, matchstick architecture. I was a ‘jeerleader’ for Gotham Girls Roller Derby for a brief season. And even when I’m not doing exciting things, I’m exploring more, and trying to read more books and learn more. 

I love your first impression when you walked into that dance class: "Everyone around me is beautiful like falling snow, and so graceful, and I'm like sticks and rocks…and I can't move." Are you still dancing? If so, are feeling less like 'sticks and rocks' and more like 'falling snow?'

No, sadly, I’m not dancing as consistently as I was before.  But when I was, it did start to get easier! I could sauté for longer, my pirouettes were tighter, I didn’t stumble over my pas de bourrees. It was heartening to actually watch myself grow. However, one thing I learned is that I don’t think it ever truly gets easier. Seasoned ballerinas still sweat and wobble and work as hard as they can to get those perfect angles. They just look much better while they do it, and God bless them for it. Ballet is truly an extreme dance.

Any other anecdotes to share as a "Groupon Ballerina?"

When I started ballet I knew that I would probably give up, because it was so taxing and it brought me home really late. So, at the beginning of 2018 I said ‘If I don’t complete at least one full year of ballet, from November to November, may God strike me down.’ I really made things difficult for myself. I was going strong until about July 2018, and then I had to drag myself to class at least once a month until November. It was a learning experience, though. I would do it again if I ever wanted to truly commit myself to a cause.

What did it mean for you to be able to tell your story on the Moth stage?

It filled me with so much hope and confidence in my story-telling abilities. I was so happy that The Moth liked my story enough to stick me on a stage in front of a paying audience.

Who are your favorite storytellers and why?

Robin Mckinley and Francesca Lia Block. They’re my favorite authors, because their stories have just the dose of magic and fantasy that I need at any given moment.

Do you think that you were always a natural storyteller?

Yes, I always knew that I wanted to tell stories. Now, am I a talented storyteller, or a good storyteller? It depends on who you ask. I just want to find my niche.

Have you ever re-watched Leap, the inspiration for your dance practice? If so, how does it hold up?

It does not hold up, and I’ve watched it multiple times despite that! 

Please finish this sentence: Storytelling is important because…

It helps you find your way home.

Can we hope for another Moth story from you?

Yes, I’d like to think so!

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I really like writing and poetry, and this year I was accepted as a 2019 Emerging Poets Fellow with Poets House!

To keep up with Val, follow her on Twitter.

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Pas de Une

by Val Rigodon

Val Rigodon attempts to become a ballerina.

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