Farmington postmaster Sue Jones carries on 16-year holiday dance tradition

FARMINGTON — The invitation process to dance in postmaster Sue Jones’ Christmas program is, at best, informal.

Children are invited by Jones when their parents stop by the post office or when she spots a family with kids around town.

Farmington resident Jessica Forbes said that she and her daughter Paytyn, 3, were stopped and invited when shopping at Hannaford.

At a recent Saturday dance practice in Farmington, Paytyn, who earlier had been dancing and twirling on the Community Center gym floor with Jones, smiled shyly but didn’t hesitate to share when asked which songs in the program were her favorite.

“I like ‘Frozen,'” she said.

“We’ve been practicing at home,” said Forbes, who sat in the bleachers with two dozen other parents to watch the practice.

For the past 16 years, Jones has directed a popular free Christmas program where about 20 to 30 kids are taught free dance lessons in the month leading up to the final performance. Jones’ program for boys and girls “as young as two or three and as old as they still want to come” started in Kingfield while she was postmaster in the town, and the recital moved with her to Farmington last year when she was transferred as postmaster. This will mark the second year Jones has directed a show in Farmington, the Farmington Christmas Show 2014, which will take place at the Farmington Community Center at 4 p.m. Dec. 6 followed by a smaller second production at North Street Church at 6 p.m.

With her only dance experience stemming from childhood holiday performances at nursing homes, Jones said her love of the kids and teaching them a love of the arts are what compel her to put the time and energy into making the routines and props, running the four or five annual rehearsals and hosting the final performance.

“This is for whoever wants to dance,” she said. “Dance can be expensive, but I think it’s important they get the arts.”

Jones said her early dance experience came from her childhood when her mother would bring her and seven of her nine siblings to sing and dance to brighten up nursing homes and homes for the elderly.

“That always stuck with me,” she said.

The annual Christmas dance programs started 16 years ago when Jones had moved to Kingfield and was working as the postmaster. Jones said she was surprised to learn the town had no Christmas program, so she worked with a ballet teacher and choir teacher to organize one. But about four years into the program, the ballet teacher, Betsy Anderson, fell ill to terminal cancer.

“And as she was getting ready to pass, she told me, ‘You need to keep doing this,'” said Jones. “I felt like she tagged me. And while I’ve got two left feet, I’ve got a big heart for the children.”

And the next Christmas, the free holiday dance recitals continued.

Last year, Jones was appointed Farmington postmaster — the first woman to hold the position — and she moved to Farmington, taking the annual dance with her. In the spring, she added a second dance which was attended by about 25 boys and girls.

On a recent Saturday, like every Saturday afternoon dance rehearsal, Jones kicked off the practice at the Farmington Community Center by leading a circle of the boys and girls in the Hokey Pokey as a warm up. Standing in front of the group, Jones leads the kids through the routines while they follow the best they can at their age level.

Some of the kids show up to practice in tutus or princess costumes pulled over sweatpants and T-shirts. One girl started out sleepily with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, which was eventually discarded on the gym floor during a later routine.

Jones, short with cropped brown hair, made jokes about her height through the rehearsal and ran among the kids with a matching level of enthusiasm.

“Who wants to dance?” she called out at the beginning of one rehearsal to a circle of 25 clapping kids who eagerly cheered back, “Are you sure?”

Jones has about 20 songs that she sorts through and reuses for rehearsals, though this year’s recital also included songs from the popular Disney movie “Frozen.” After dancing through routines for more traditional Christmas music, Jones turned to the parents in the bleachers, cupped one hand to her mouth and in an exaggerated whisper let the parents know “we’re going to play F-R-O-Z-E-N next” so as not to get the children too excited before the songs came on.

When facing the group of kids during the routine for “Let it Go” from the “Frozen” soundtrack, Jones teared up, which she later said isn’t unusual for her at a practice.

“They really performed with their hearts,” she said afterwards.

Farmington resident Angie Casavant, who watched during the rehearsal, said she has long known Jones, and her daughters Emma and Allison had been enjoying their time at dance.

“Sue is so fun and crazy, and she’s just great with the kids,” said Casavant.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 


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