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Arts & Culture

Remembering Hartford Dancer, Teacher, And Choreographer Lee "Aca" Thompson

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Shana Sureck
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WNPR
Lee "Aca" Thompson

Tributes and condolences keep pouring in on social media for dancer, teacher, and choreographer Lee "Aca" Thompson, who died earlier this month at the age of 82.

According to a press release from Hartford's Artists Collective where Thompson spent the last 44 years teaching, his dance career took him around the world where he studied and performed with some of the most prominent dancers of the 20th century. 

Mr. Thompson studied and performed with the great Josephine Baker, Katherine Dunham, Sevilla Fort, Pearl Primus, Boris Novikoff, Rudolph Nureyev, and Martha Graham. His training comprehends Humphrey, Weidman, Graham, and Eastern techniques.

As a teacher, he taught many forms of dance -- tap, jazz, ballet, and modern -- but he was considered an expert in African and Caribbean dance. Thompson eventually developed his own technique encompassing many styles, calling it the African Piragramac Dance Technique. Thompson said the technique was designed to prepare a dancer’s body for all dance forms. 

Thompson was the master choreographer at The Artists Collective, where he inspired generations of future dancers, and became a legend in Hartford's North End neighborhood. 

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Credit Shana Sureck / WNPR
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WNPR
Aca Thompson directing dancers at the Artists Collective in Hartford's North End.

"As a young man, Aca gave me a sense of purpose and direction. I will miss this honorable and noble human being, who had a positive impact on me," Artists Collective alum Leon Hassan Alexander said in a statement.

Last year, WNPR's J Holt interviewed Thompson for The Radius Project podcast. Thompson talked about his life as a dancer and how he left the professional world in the early 1970s to come to Hartford and teach. Listen to the interview below.

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Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”

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