Volunteer dance teacher gets seniors moving

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Amelia Kurpat and her husband Adam lead the class in a waltz lesson on Feb 1. Photos by Steve Smith.
Amelia Kurpat and her husband Adam lead the class in a waltz lesson on Feb 1. Photos by Steve Smith.

Although never formally trained as a dancer herself, Amelia Kurpat has helped scores of people learn polka, ballroom and line-dancing at the Ellington Senior Center for about the past 12 years. Kurpat picked up the dancing by simply attending dances for fun, as far back as the late 1960s, in places including the Catskill Mountains and many festivals across the country. She and her husband, Adam, have attended festivals in Branson, Missouri, Michigan, and several other states. She has taught polka-dancing since 1979.

A resident of Ellington for 20 years, and previously a 55-year Vernon resident, Kurpat said she began teaching at the Ellington Senior Center because there were no other dance classes available for seniors in the area.

“I enjoy helping people,” Kurpat said. “I thought there was a need for teachers, because there were fewer and fewer out in the field. I just enjoyed doing it. I wasn't looking to make a living at it. I just wanted to do it for free. I enjoy seeing someone with two left feet or two right feet start doing it correctly.”

Kurpat had also volunteered on various other projects at the Ellington Senior Center. She previously helped with crafts and running movie nights.

For many of her students, the dance classes are their chief means of socializing.

Leonard Angell said he'd never danced before taking Kurpat's classes – around the time they started a dozen years ago – but now he comes as often as possible, despite not being as able to get out as much as he used to. “It's a nice group to come to,” he said. “It's a nice group of people. I used to bowl, but now I'm limited to what I can do. I come to the dancing group when I can.”

“We enjoy the people,” said Florence Brennan. “I love people and activity. As a single person, it's a great place to come and meet with people. For some of the students, it's their home away from home. Some people come and watch, and then try it if they feel like it.”

Kurpat has about a half-dozen couples who attend class regularly. They also perform an annual spring variety show, along with the center's singing group. She also recently began coordinating non-instructional, social dance parties where people can come and mingle, eat, and cut whatever sort of rug they choose. Some non-dancers even come for the dinner and friends.

“Amelia is wonderful and caring – a special person,” Brennan said. “She's a wonderful teacher – easy-going and willing to go over and over things, as people need her to. She takes a personal interest in everyone.”

Kurpat said that for herself, she gets the enjoyment from seeing her students enjoy dancing. She also has made many friends in the process and many of them attend dancing events in Connecticut as a group.

“It's all just to get people together with dancing,” she said. “Dancing is a great time to be social, and do some exercising with your feet."

She is also slated to start giving lessons in Tolland this spring.

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