The first Ballet teacher in Great Falls, Theresa D’Alessandro began teaching classes at the Great Falls Grange Hall. In 1980, when the Village Centre was constructed, we moved to our current location and incorporated as, The School of Theatrical Dance (SOTD). The name was chosen as a reflection of the diversity of the curriculum, and is actually the dictionary definition of Ballet.
We were home to the Great Falls Dance Company from 1980 – 1985. Under the direction of Theresa D’Alessandro and Brown Cardwell, the Company provided an outlet for the studio’s serious dancers, presenting formal concerts as well as performances at local festivals and events at Wolf Trap, Bull Run (now Jiffy Lube Live), The National Zoo, Great Falls 4th of July, Frying Pan Park, Glen Echo, The Organization of American States, etc.
We explored the dance competition circuit, garnering awards at both the local and national levels. During this time, Kris Beery was one of our top students. In the early 90’s, the Repertory Group was formed, and Modern was added to the curriculum. We left the competition scene to focus more on individual skill development.
Mdm. D’Alessandro revived “From Amber to Blue,” an original Ballet she had created for the Great Falls Dance Company and with the help of Martha Schwieters, coordinated a project with the Langley High School American Civilization Classes. The ballet centered around the Civil War and incorporated historical dance, ballet, and modern. As a result, Mdm. D’Alessandro received the Fairfax Arts Council award for “Contribution to Arts and Education.”
Mdm. D’Alessandro received a grant to produce a video documentary featuring our master teacher Dawei Zhang, formerly the Director of the Shanghai Ballet. The finished product, “Dancing the Same Language” can now be found in school and public libraries in Fairfax County.
By this time, we had trained in, and adopted the Royal Academy of Dancing Syllabus as the cornerstone of our Ballet program. Students took annual performance exams, administered by a representative of the Academy. Though our students passed with honors, thorough preparation required so much repetition, it proved less stimulating than fresh material and new challenges. Though we still incorporate the syllabus, we have discontinued the formal examinations.
Alumn Kris Beery joined the faculty, and along with Theresa’s mother Jerene Thomas, Brown Cardwell, and Carol Hallman, saw to it that the school remained operational during Theresa’s leave of absence in Korea (‘94-‘97). In 1998, aerobics instructor, Kathy Fields joined the faculty, and in 2004, Mr. Florian Rouiller joined. In 2006, Alumn, Ashley (O’Banion) Castro, returned to perform and teach ballet. Linda (Watts) McLean, who had taught aerobic classes in the 80’s, returned in 2008.
We premiered our original winter production, “Christmas Eve at the Nutcracker Club”. Set in a 1940’s USO club, it not only incorporates the classical Tchaikovsky standards, it branches out to encompass swing, jazz, new age and blues. This is the ideal vehicle by which our students may express all the styles of dance they have studied.
Mdm. D’Alessandro produced a Modern Dance segment for Monkey See.
We established the Great Falls Dance Theater. Comprised of our Upper Level dancers as well as professional artists, this performing wing of the studio now presents the winter concert, as well as outreach programs in the community. Most recently, in June 2012, dancers performed our “Lion King Project”; and taught at the Loudoun County Parks and Recreation Summer camp for children with special needs. We also offer complimentary “Christmas Eve at the Nutcracker Club” tickets to Special Olympic families.