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DPAC director to perform in charity dance showcase

Jillian Barwick | Thursday, April 12, 2012

A small town farm girl who grew up on disco fever, Anna Thompson, executive director for the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, will fulfill her dream of being a dancing queen in “Dancing with Our Stars,” an event benefitting the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Thompson will participate in the competition at the Hilton Garden Inn on April 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Thompson said she will perform the hustle at the event to the Motown classic “Working My Way Back to You” by The Spinners.

“I know the basic tango, fox trot, cha-cha and the hustle,” she said. “I have always loved dancing, and I have been watching ‘Dancing With the Stars’ since it began. My all-time favorite [contestant] was Emmett Smith.”

Thompson said her love of dance started early.

“My dad was a wonderful dancer, and I followed him wherever he led me,” she said. “When I was in college, I would bring my friends back home to Kalamazoo, [Mich.,] and we would go dancing and have a great time.”

Thompson said as the curator of performing arts programming at Notre Dame, she develops interdisciplinary projects with visiting artists to the University.

In addition, Thompson said she has commissioned the first new works in music, dance and theatre bearing the name of the University to tour nationally and internationally.

Thompson said she has managed to balance her demanding job with intense dance practice.

“As part of the competition, DanceSport in Mishawaka has donated 10 lessons to each contestant for preparation,” she said. “I really, really love to dance though, so I have taken more lessons outside of the allotted 10.”

Thompson’s partner for the gala, Matt Smith, has been dancing for four years and has taught ballroom, Latin and swing dancing at DanceSport. Thompson said Smith is currently the dance director and full-time dance instructor at the studio.

“Matt has been wonderful,” she said. “He is an excellent teacher, and had to take on the task of teaching me to not lead him.”

Thompson said Smith choreographed the dance as soon as she specified the song and style she wanted.  

“When I told him I wanted to perform the hustle to ‘Working My Way Back to You,’ he looked at me, turned on the music, and began leading me into step after step,” she said. “The song is over three minutes unedited.”

As part of the competition, people donate $39 to vote for their favorite performers. This amount is the minimum number of dollars it takes to support one person at the center for one day, Thompson said.

“The Center for the Homeless is not a revolving door of people just walking in and out every day and night,” she said. “The center seeks to help their guests for as long as it takes to get them back on their feet. These donations will really help operations at the center.”

Thompson is currently third in the polls. She said her total fundraising goal is $20,000, and she needs around 200 more votes to reach her target.

People can vote for Thompson online, or can send a check made to the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

“This really is a great cause for people to donate their time and effort to,” Thompson said. “My personal motto has always been ‘Just get up and dance!’ and that is exactly what I am doing.”