January 3, 2013

A lifetime of dance

Westport woman dedicated to teaching passion

WESTPORT — For more than 30 years, Caroline Thompson has taught and inspired youngsters in the joys and intricacies of dance. 

“I love seeing my students as they grow up, becoming good athletes, (having) fun dancing and not being self conscious on a dance floor. Past students still come up to me in the grocery store and identify themselves. They remember,” Thompson said.

From the tips of their toes to the ends of their fingers and the tops of their heads, Thompson makes her young students aware that every part of them is a part of the dance. 

“Now you are playing the piano. Wiggle those fingers,” she tells them during a recent dance session in Westport.

The youngsters assume different roles, most in pantomime, as they cavort in a variety of expressive moves. 

“OK, Superman, wave those capes,” Thompson tells the dancers as they fly about the room.

Role-playing as farmers, the students go through the motions of putting on their high boots, jackets and gloves and heading out to the barn. 

“Watch out for those horse droppings. Let’s pick up our feet,” she says as the students go through the motions.

“Dancers use their bodies, not their vocal chords,” Thompson tells her troupe when a few start chatting. 

“Sometimes dancers also have to be very still,” Thompson said as the group played a game. 

Thompson invites the students’ parents and grandparents who generally sit in the background to participate in the exercises. She also joins the youngsters. 

“When are we going to do dancing?” a student asks.

“I know everyone hates sit-ups; let’s make them fun. We’re ballerinas, not truck drivers,” Thompson teases.

Thompson has been teaching in Westport since the fall of 1980; she taught the preceding spring at the Elizabethtown Social Center. Several parents of her current students are also protégés. “I actually started as a dance assistant in my dance school when I was 13 and did the same with the JV gymnastics team,” Thompson said.

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