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Thursday, September 22, 2022

82-year-old performer dancing out in style in final show in The Villages

Jim Caisse is dancing out in style.
Caisse, longtime director of the Music In Motion, will give his final performance with the dance company on Sept. 13, at 3 p.m. in Savannah Center.

The show is called “Tickets Please!” and features nearly three dozen dancers, and also six local vocalists in The Villages.

Jim Caisse center stage with Music In Motion
Jim Caisse, center stage, with Music In Motion.

“I do feel like I’m going out in style but it’s kind of bittersweet,” Caisse, 82, said. “I’m filled with emotion.”
He has been director of MIMO for 15 years. Before that, he taught dancing in Massachusetts for nearly a half century. “I thought I retired when I came to The Villages, but then Music In Motion happened.
“I love working with these people; we really are like a family,” Caisse added. “It’s a wonderful group. We’re always there for each other.”

Jim Caisse, center rehearsing in 2017 with the Music In Motion dancers

Caisse was thinking of leaving the group a couple of years ago, but then the Covid virus hit.
“I thought about it before Covid, but then the virus came and I decided to wait,” Caisse said. The virus struck close to home when Caisse’s wife – Ann – was infected and became severely ill. “It was awful, we almost lost her,” he said. “After that happened, I felt I had to spend more time with her and my family.”
Jim and Ann Caisse have been married 60 years. “Ann has made so many sacrifices for me; I wanted to spend whatever time I have left with her.”

Jim Caisse and Karen Bouffard tapping to “My Lucky Star.”

Now, as Caisse prepares for his last show as director of Music In Motion, he reminisced about joining the group back in 2007.
“The first time, I came in to teach a dancing class, they loved it, but I told them I expected more. I told them I would really challenge them as dancers, and it would be a lot of hard work. They told me, yes, they wanted to be challenged.”

Music In Motion has presented some of the most entertaining and polished shows in The Villages during the past 15 years.

Such dancers and choreographers as Dianne Bolton, Karen Bouffard, Barbara Byers, Vicky Magee, Jill Brewer, Patti Card, Paige Fleming, Jo Gagne, Sue Burton, Cheryl Hardeman, Kristin Miller and Kathy Chesley-Williams are part of what made the dance company so special.

“It’s unfair to single out any individual, and I can’t do that,” Caisse said. “Everybody contributes to Music In Motion and everyone is a part of our success.”
That success helped the dance company raise over $70,000 for charity. The group has also performed as an opening act for an AARP National Convention. Music In Motion also appeared at a halftime show for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association.

Caisse has been the driving force in that success.

“We have innovative and creative choreography and dazzling costumes, but Music In Motion is much more than that,” said dancer Lynne Greenberger. “We are a tight-knit group of performers who work hard together to create the best show we can.
“This focus comes from our leadership –Jim Caisse. He instills in each of us a strong work ethic and a desire to keep developing our dance skills. It takes someone special to lead a successful group, and Jim is that person.”
Vicky Magee agreed.
“Aside from his outstanding professional credentials, Jim has shown a lot of patience and understanding through the years,” she said. “He continually raises the bar of choreography and training for our group. He knew how to get the best out of the dancers.”

One of those dancers is his daughter, Melissa Carluccio who helped choreograph the upcoming show.

Jim Caisse with his daughter Melissa, right, and granddaughter Kayla Luoma.

“For me, the best part is dancing with my Dad,” she once told me. “It’s a blast to be out there with him and it makes everything more meaningful.”

Caisse’s final show, “Tickets Please!” is really an encore. It was presented earlier this year but Caisse stresses there are new numbers and performers in this show.
“We had a great response, so we’re doing it again with some new things,” he said. The show features dance numbers from around the world. The list includes music and dancing from such locations as London Palladium, Radio City Music Hall, Moulin Rouge, the Grand Ole Opry and Carnegie Hall.

Singers include Billie Thatcher, Bob Stehman, Jeri Lynne Fraser, Janet Maloney, Bonnie Williams and Barbara Hanberry.

Dancing was a family affair for Jim Caisse in 2017. Pictured with him, from left, his daughter Melissa Carluccio, wife Ann and granddaughter Kayla Luoma.

A special patriotic salute to veterans will feature the following Villagers who served: Bill Ward, Marines; Greg Peters, Army; Tom Gibboney, Coast Guard; Lisa Vanderbloeme, Navy and Bob Bienvenue, Air Force.
“They told me they can’t dance, but I told them, they don’t have to dance; we just want to salute their service,” Caisse said.

After a pause, Caisse – who hopes to continue teaching dance at the Wildwood Community Center — summed up his feelings about his time with Music In Motion.
“My deepest gratitude to the residents of The Villages and surrounding areas for their support over the past 15 years.
“It has been my pleasure to have entertained all of you. I look forward to my final curtain on Sept 13. Then, I will pass the torch to the next generation of Music In Motion.”

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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