Virginia Dale Capron

Virginia Dale Capron, age 90, died Wednesday, March 23, at Lord Chamberlain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Stratford, CT. A dancing teacher well-loved by hundreds of area families for decades, "Miss Virginia" was born January 12, 1921 in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport to the late Isaac and Lillian Capron. Her father was a concert pianist on weekends, but worked as a furniture salesmen to support his family. He died young and her mother was left supporting Virginia and her older brother Earl who became a well-known local musician with his banjo playing Dixieland Band. Earl predeceased her in 2007 at age 97. Virginia studied voice early on but when the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo came to the U.S. from Europe, she was enthralled with their performance and yearned to become a dancer. She first auditioned with Muriel Stuart a fabulous teacher with the Royal Ballet of England but was told she needed more training. Around age 13 she began teaching neighborhood children in Bridgeport but her mother encouraged her to go New York to follow her dream and study ballet under expert teachers. She auditioned at the new American Ballet School where she was accepted and pursued dance studies there for 4 years. She studied ballet under the tutelage of Lincoln Kirsten, Vitale Folkine and George Balanchine himself. She was performing at the same time she continued to study tap under Ernest Carlost, acrobatic under Lou Wills and jazz under Charles Kelly (Gene Kelly's brother). She was told that choreography was her forte and she went on to earn her degree in that. She earned certification to teach and opened her first dance school in Bridgeport at age 17. She wanted her students to be taught correctly and benefit from her early audition experiences in New York. Her students ranged in age from 4 1/2 to 20 years old; and she taught ballet, tap and acrobatic classes to approximately 400 students in Milford (studio over the Capital Theater), Trumbull and Easton for over 50 years. Early on, she enlisted the talents of Irene Gasso (Miss Irene) a former student, to assist her and they forged a lifelong teaching association. Virginia took a position with Terrific Talent in New York City screening children professionally for stage & television work. In the early 1960's Virginia became an activist for Dance Teaching Certification and lobbied in Hartford for the cause which ultimately did not pass in Connecticut. She missed her students and teaching and returned to those duties but with the idea that she could develop more talent in her own school. In the late 1960's Virginia founded the Area Youth Scholarship Ballet Company, a program to fund junior and senior apprentices to raise the quality of dance and dance instruction. Around 1974 they changed the name to the Greater Bridgeport Ballet Company to encompass a wider audience & community support. Later on this group became the State Ballet of Connecticut through a partnership with University of Bridgeport, utilizing the Mertens Theater and joining with Dr. Harrison Valante, UB music chairman and conductor of the Civic Orchestra. The company featured Patricia McBride and Gelsey Kirkland, two well-known professional dancers along with choreographer Genia Melikova former first ballerina with the Marquis de Cuevas ballet company. The organization became associated with the University of Bridgeport, Virginia became Executive Director of the State Ballet. Among many programs and series of ballets, her colorful and entertaining interpretation of the full Nutcracker Suite ballet was a well-known holiday tradition for many decades at the Klein Memorial Auditorium and was the precursor of many local presentations of that classic that continue today. In 1975 under her leadership the State Ballet was instrumental in bringing to the United States Galina and Valery Panov, a husband/wife team from the Bolshoi Ballet who had been persecuted and jailed in Russia. Clive Barnes, the noted NY Times writer was also instrumental in their release and the combined efforts raised $10,000 to pay for their trip here. It was a huge success, with a gala celebration and performance at the University of Bridgeport, a highlight of Ms Capron's career. In the 1970's Virginia began taking her students to study at Marianne Leone's Talent Studio in NYC. As a result of these auditions, many students were hired over the years for commercials, dramas and even Broadway plays. From the Jackie Gleason and Jimmy Durante shows, to Nintendo and FAO Schwartz commercials, many of the children went on to perform with top Broadway stars in plays like "Annie," "Sunday in the Park with George" and "Into the Woods" to name a few. During these years Virginia brought teachers in from the city while she composed songs for dance lessons and performances. She even recorded a CD for little beginners in dance movement. Miss Virginia never married and maintained that dance and her students were the "loves of her life." Active until her retirement in 2000, Virginia's mind always moved in creative ways. She loved learning Wei bowling and singing in the chorus at Wesley Heights her assisted living home. Virginia has continued to be an inspiration for her "adopted neice," Wendy Weir, her Wesley Heights companions and loyal caregivers right up to her recent 90th birthday. Her creative and cheerful spirit will be missed by all. Friends may call on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. in The Gregory F. Doyle Funeral Home, 291 Bridgeport Avenue, Milford with a service being held at 6:30 p.m. Burial will take place on Tuesday morning at 10:30 DIRECTLY in Park Cemetery, 620 Lindley Street, Bridgeport. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Christ Episcopal Church Tashua, 5170 Madison Avenue, Trumbull, CT 06611.

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