During the 16 years Elan Diehl Cooper has been teaching ballet to Northern Virginia young people, she has had one dream -- to have her own ballet company.
"All ballet teachers and choreographers understand the need for a school to have a performing company," Cooper said. "It is a tremendous challenge to get it started."
After four years of planning, Cooper has formed Ballet One, which had its premiere performance Nov. 30. The company features students Cooper has taught at the Arlington Youth Ballet School of the Dance.
"Our Arlington Youth Ballet school has never been larger, so it is only logical to take this step now," said Cooper, who has been artistic director of AYB for 10 years. "Ballet One will develop as a performing company for the school as well as become a vehicle of experience for intermediate and advanced students ready for such a step."
For its first performance, Ballet One presented "Elan," a new disco dance choreographed by Cooper. "It's set to music by Herb Alpert, with the new contemporary disco beat," Cooper said.
Cooper's new company features present and former students ranging in age from 15 to 27 years old.
"Our principal dancer, John Hearn, 25, is in the Air Force but has been studying ballet with Elan for six years," said Lyn Mellor, in charge of publicity for AYB. "It's a really dramatic story how he came to be dancing with us.
"John had never danced before he came to one of our dance classes to pick up a friend, Liz Frazier. He was watching the class and then talked to Elan who started teasing him, asking him if he could do a lift, and he said, "What's that?"
"She explained that meant lifting a female dancer in the air, so he picked up Liz and carried her across the room just like that. Afterward Elan saw his interest in dancing was serious. He eventually started studying with her and is now our principal male dancer," said Mellor.
Although Hearn started ballet classes late in life, Cooper said, "he is definitely a dancer, not a technician. And he can lift the world."
Elizabeth Frazier, now 18, is a partner with Hearn and principal female dancer. Heran and Frazier are both residents of Falls Church. Frazier has been a student of Cooper's since she was 6 years old.
Other members of Ballet One include Arlington's Susan Gerlach, 15, a student at Washington-Lee High School, who has been studying with Cooper since she was 9; Kim Curtis, 27, a teacher from Springfield who formerly studied at the Washington School of Ballet; and Carrie Homan, 18, of Alexandria, a former student of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Cooper says the sixth member of Ballet One quit unexpectedly and was hurriedly replaced by Roland Maynez, 26, of Arlington, another of her students who may join the company permanently.
The six-member Ballet One Company will perform on April 22 as part of the lunchtime concert series offered at Lisner auditorium in Washington.
Meanwhile, Arlington Youth Ballet's next series of 12-week classes begins Jan. 7. Classes range from pre-ballet for age 4 and up to advanced workshops for ages 14 and up.
Registration is scheduled on Friday, Jan. 4, in Room 126 of Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 125 South Old Glebe Rd., Arlington. Call Mellor at 532-1508 or Arlington Arts at 558-2161 for more details.