Longtime Darien Arts Center dance instructor ‘Miss Bonnie’ retires

DARIEN — The longtime dance director at the Darien Arts Center is stepping down after nearly three decades of teaching hundreds of students in town.

Bonnie Gombos, who has helmed the Darien Arts Center’s dance program for 26 years, will retire this year. Known as “Miss Bonnie” to her students, Gombos began working at the center after moving to Darien and taking over the dance program in 2003.

Her students often become “part of the family,” Gombos said, adding that many of the children she once taught keep in touch and visit her when they come back to town.

“I try to instill in them not only dance, but life lessons,” Gombos said. “I see some of these kids more than their parents do.”

In her time with the program, she has taught dance classes from classical ballet to jazz and has led students through annual performances across local and national venues. She directs and choreographs “Scenes from the Nutcracker” each December and a spring Ballet Series, the center said in a release.

Under her tutelage, the program has grown exponentially, the center said.

Claire Mazza, a current instructor with the DAC’s dance program and professional dancer, will step into the role as Gombos’ successor, the center said.

A native New Yorker, Mazza is also the co-founder of the dance company East Coast Contemporary Ballet and studied at the School of American Ballet. She has been teaching dance to students for more than 10 years.

“I’m leaving them in good hands,” Gombos said. “But I have loved pretty much every minute of it.”