The last dance of Carole France

For more than 60 years Carole France has taught thousands of local students how to dance. 

The 85-year old dance teacher taught her last class at France School of Dance in January. 

Since the school opened in the early 1960s students have learned the classics such as ballet and tap. French and her daughter Linda French Martin have kept up with the times by instructing disco dancing during its heyday right up to today’s hip hop classes.

France School of Dance opened in a  house at its Trail Avenue location in Keizer in 1979. The house and the land it sits on was owned by her family. Her father, Chester Long, owned C.G. Long and Sons Building Supplies, next door to the house that became the school. 

Dancing since she was a young girl, Carole France took classes with Paul Armstong in Salem. She eventually she became an assistant and learned how to teach dance classes.  

After a detour to Los Angeles to continue her dance training, she returned to Salem in 1960 when she opened her own school in a second floor room at Town and Country Lanes (currently The Rec). For 13 years she offered classes in ballet, jazz and tap. Word about the school got out due to newspaper features.

France didn’t limit herself to her Keizer school. She traveled to other towns in the region, renting spaces to teach in places like Willamina, Dallas, Sweet Home and Lebanon.

In 1984 she moved the school to a house on Trail Avenue. Since is was on the same property as her family’s building supply business, it was zoned for a business. With assistance from family members she was able to turn the house into a dance studio; additional space was added over the next few decades.

All four of France’s children danced, though her sons went onto other interests such as karate, which she incorporated into her dance teaching. Her eldest daughter, Linda, continues to teach at the school in Keizer and at a second location in Rickreall. 

Students of the school have many opportunities to perform in public. France School of Dance holds two recitals a year at North Salem High School as a benefit for Marion Polk Food Share, as well as at the Oregon State and Polk County fairs. They were an annual entry in the annual Iris Festival and KeizerFEST parades until the festival was moved to August, when the Polk County Fair is held.

As for her proudest achievement, France said it is to continue dancing after 70 years. Until her last class, she was teaching the third generation of dancers—grand- and great grandchildren of former students.

Retirement for Carole won’t look much different than the previous years. She has always been physically active, hiking, mountain climbing and rollerblading.  Though dancing has progressed over the past 60 years, as long as the classics are still in demand, France School of Dance will have role in shaping future dancers.