Nora Thompson – 

How old were you when you started dancing?

I began dancing at 4 or 5 years old, first at Neighborhood Music School. I moved to NHB after seeing an especially inspiring performance of the Nutcracker in 5th grade.

As a child what did you love most about dance?

I loved the physical rigor as well as the ability to perform, not only formally, but every day in class. I loved dancing with people I knew well and trusted, working together to perform.

What were some of your favorite roles?

I especially enjoyed being rag doll (twice!) in the Nutcracker. The choreography was difficult and non-traditional, which excited me, and I got to have a real character with emotional qualities. I was thrilled to get to be goofy and theatrical on stage instead of just smiling.

I also loved being a demi-flower (again, twice!). It was the first time I danced on stage completely alone, and that feeling was exhilarating. I fell in love with performing at that moment in a way I hadn’t experienced before – as something terrifying, amazing, and all-consuming in that moment. I loved the choreography for both demi-flowers, because it allowed for a lot of creative phrasing within the music. I could hold onto a balance for just a little longer, making the correspondence between the movement and the music more exciting for me.

Did you attend any summer dance programs?

No, I attended Audubon Arts (a musical theater day camp at Neighborhood Music School) for most of my childhood. In high school I decided to pass on dance camp as I was put off by the competitiveness and discipline, and instead traveled to foreign countries and found internships in New Haven.

Where did you go to college/did you dance while you were in school?

I went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. I was a Dance Major, as well as a Science in Society major in which I combined Psychology and Sociology studies. I continued practicing ballet but focused more on contemporary forms of dance, as well as taking classes in West African dance, hip-hop, jazz, and improvisation. I choreographed works for the major, as well as in two dance groups which I directed my senior year.

I did a senior project that focused on the intersections of dance (specifically improvisation) and the psychological and sociological idealizations of the concept of autonomy. I choreographed a dance and wrote an essay for this project.

What advice would you give to young aspiring dancers?

Don’t be afraid to explore different forms of dance, and try not to be intimidated by improvisation and choreography. Experimenting through learning new styles and discovering your own can be important to understand why dance matters to you, and matters to our culture.


Verily photo shoot

 NHB Alumni Coordinator: Kelsy Paff

Kelsey danced with New Haven Ballet under the direction of Philip Otto, John Carney, and Nobel Barker from the age of ten until she graduated in 2008. During her time as a student at New Haven Ballet she attended a number of summer dance intensive programs including Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive, Summer Dance at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and Nutmeg Conservatory’s Pre-Professional Training program. She took Master Classes with Robert Maiorano, Maria Kowroski, Ashley Bouder, Daniel Ulbricht, and Emily Coats to name a few.

Kelsey graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a double major in World Literature and Studio Art and minored in Architectural Studies.

Kelsey currently lives outside of Princeton, New Jersey with her husband Jeremy where she continues to enjoy taking open classes with the Princeton Ballet School.

If you are an NHB alum with exciting news to share and/or interested in connecting with other alums, we would love to hear from you. Currently, we are looking for alums who might be interested in sharing their college experiences (academic, dance, etc.) with NHB students. Please contact Kelsey at:

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