Mentorship with Janice (Jea) Valdez Q&A

Janice Valdez on her mentorship with Julie Lebel 

Julie Lebel offered mentorship to artist & parent Janice Valdez in 2023 as a part of Foolish Operations’ Knowledge Sharing initiatives. Wanting to know more about Janice’s experience as a mentee, we reached out for a testimonial and collected a very heart-touching one. Julie felt truly honoured by Janice’s kind words. All though the responses were directed at Julie, these exchanges between Julie and Janice would not have been possible without the support of the entire FO team and the accumulation of experiences through trial and error and the best teachings Julie has received from many great mentors, including collaborators, parents and children. Most importantly, exchanges like this are always an opportunity to continue learning and un-learning.  

Here is a glimpse of what Janice has to say about her experience as a mentee with Julie! 

Q: How and when did this idea of reaching out for a mentorship come about for you? 

 A: It happened organically. I didn’t know or think to ask for it. Julie simply started sharing resources with me and inviting me to dance in Ensemble Thinking and I had not been invited to dance in this way before. There is often a process of qualifying to be involved in dance, whether it be a fee or an application of sorts. I believe there was a personal resonance made between Julie and I when we spoke of our respective work. The way Julie facilitates dance sessions and the way I have done my work in drama share a similar philosophy – learner-centered and gently structured with lots of flexibility for emergent collective creation, the facilitator being a guide rather than an expert authority.

Q:What did you like most about the mentorship? 

A: Much of what I appreciate in the mentorship I’ve received with Julie are the ways I’m invited into spaces and forwarded information to advance my practices, whether through an email forward about a grant opportunity or a show. [] Rare among leaders, Julie is one who is able to give an unconditional positive regard for people, and this is essential and common in the greatest of leaders. I’m truly honoured to be in circle with you, Julie!

Q: What were some things you felt could be improved? 

A: I feel Julie and Foolish Operations deserve to be given unlimited resources to create what they wish in the world. This is a company of integrity, vision and heart, and I believe our world is better off if more of your work engages families and more artists have access to Foolish Operations’ mentorship. I’m only just beginning to imagine possibilities to apply what I’ve learned in Dancing The Parenting and Ensemble Thinking. I have yet to actualize and take flight. With some time and funds, a scheduled and intentional mentoring program (even of a short duration) can really help. 

Q: What are the most memorable things you learned from this mentorship?

A:  From my time with Julie, I’ve learned that just to begin does not require a lot. I have not yet begun many ideas because I feel as though I’m not yet prepared. And Julie models that minimal things make space for so much creativity from participants. And that showing up in space as we are is all that is required to give others permission to do so.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with your mentor?

A: Julie is capable of unconditional positive regard for those you hold space within the studio, and from what I can see, in much of her life. I consider my relationship with her one of respect and great admiration for not only her work but also of ways of being in the world as a mother and community leader. […] In the right time with resources aligning, I see potential in future collaborations with Julie, and Foolish Operations as I deepen and expand my artistic practices as an artist, community facilitator, and holder of sacred spaces for personal expression and healing.