Dancers Dreams Become a Reality for ADI and the Alexandria Ballet


It began as a simple family ritual for Helenmarie Corcoran, who for years would take her grandchildren to the Alexandria Ballet Companys performance of The Nutcracker at the Anthenaeum. But then the Old Town financial planner and investment advisor took some ballroom dancing classes and everything changed.

I fell in love with dance, said Corcoran, who turned her business expertise into the Alliance Dance Institute nearly four years ago. I was impressed with the transformational quality of dance, how people can get in touch with themselves and other people as well.

Through her ballroom dancing classes, Corcoran met Gary Stephans and the two opened ADI in some converted retail space on the second floor of Landmark Shopping Mall.

Gary has been dancing for over 50 years, said Corcoran. He knew Frank Regan and this was also a way to take advantage of Franks extraordinary talents.

Regan is ADIs Artistic Director, a championship dancer who has received the Legends of Dance award, which puts him in the company of famed artists like Cyd Charisse, Marge Champion and June Allyson. Frank is truly a national living treasure in dance, said Corcoran, and we have him right here in Alexandria.

When the growing Alexandria Ballet was looking for larger rehearsal space, Corcoran asked owner and Artistic Director Virginia Britton to take a look at ADI, and now the two have partnered to offer one of the most comprehensive dance experiences in the area.

Moving to the Alliance Dance Institute has allowed me to expand our ballet program, said Britton, who founded the company in 1991 by bringing a few of her private students into the Anthenaeum during off hours to practice for special performances. Teaching children is my priority and our new facility is located in a safe environment.

Unlike many ballet schools in the area, a priority for the Alexandria Ballet is to make itself available to everyone, hence the numerous scholarships provided to Alexandria students.

We are a very diverse school, said Britton, who wants to provide all Alexandrians an opportunity to learn ballet, regardless of their economic circumstances.

I also provide a very holistic approach to dance, continued Britton, who teaches a much less physically destructive method of ballet.  My method is like Pilates. It is safer and does not distort or hurt the body like traditional teaching methods.

The Kirov Ballet-trained Britton is busy preparing for the companys trademark annual production of The Nutcracker, with a schedule of 25 performances set to begin next month. In addition to acting as artistic director, Britton also hand sews every elaborate costume for the production.

I do love to create the costumes, said Britton. But they are also a huge investment, she added as she showed off her handiwork of sequins, rhinestones and layers of tulle.

The Alexandria Ballet offers classes for all skills, ages and sexes, beginning with creative movement classes for 3-year olds as well as classes for senior citizens.

ADI complements this schedule with their own lessons, including ballroom dancing (the school is home to the areas only Ballroom Dance Teachers College), hip-hop, swing, modern and special private classes for competitive dancers.

According to Stephans, Our programs are designed to introduce you to the fun of dancing and are tailored to your personal needs whether you are preparing for a wedding, reunion, special event, or if you just want to learn for fun and exercise.

When asked how the phenomenal popularity of the television show Dancing With the Stars has affected ADI, Corcoran chuckled, Dancing With the Stars has certainly created an interest in ballroom dancing, but watching sport and doing sport are two different things.

Corcoran continued, People can do this all their lives. Dancing provides a human contact that is also a community builder.

Corcoran is just as passionate about dance today as when she took her first ballroom steps. She founded the nonprofit Access Through the Arts as a way to provide dance opportunities to underserved communities in Alexandria and truly believes in the transforming power of dance.

This is a whole new way to communicate, said Corcoran. I think peoples lives will be greatly changed if they dance.

For information on The Alliance Dance Institute, visit or call 703-354-6000. For more information on the Alexandria Ballet Company, visit or call 703-354-6000.