WESTPORT-In 1982, the Westport Youth Commission was looking for a program that would get kids active, so they approached Caroline Thompson with the idea for a dance group.
Thirty years later, the group has become an annual tradition not only for the scores of elementary students who participate in it, but also for the annual performance that takes to the stage at the Westport Central School talent show.
"Our first year in 1982, the theme for the talent show was Jungle Love," Thompson said. "I can remember each of the kids from the first show. I have kept every single name from every single show."
Thompson said that she had been doing dance programs before the youth commission, but was approached by youth commission director Beth Lewis prior to the 1981-82 school year.
"I have loved watching each of them as they have grown up," she said. "When I see them doing so well after they have gone through the dance program, it makes me happy that they were able to learn movement early in their schooling."
Thompson said one of the reasons she said yes to the idea when it started was for her children.
"I wanted to make sure that my kids had dance," she said. "However, they did not want to learn dance from their mother."
But many others did learn from her, and remembered those lessons well beyond elementary school.
"One time, a former student came up to me at a show and asked me if I wanted to dance," Thompson said. "I said, 'you don't want to dance with an old lady,' and his reply was, 'but you are the one that taught me to do this.'"
On May 21, the current group of students in the class performed music to the theme of "Willy Wonka's Talent Factory."
"I thought it was wonderful," Thompson said. "The kids were sensational and they worked hard at it."