- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

Adrienne Dellas-Thornton is en pointe.

A classically trained dancer, Mrs. Dellas-Thornton transforms gangling teens into graceful swans at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Northeast D.C. She has taught ballet at the school for 10 years.

Mrs. Dellas-Thornton will be featured in the debut of Romance Classics cable network's series "Cool Women" at 8 tonight. The 13-part program is directed and produced by Debbie Allen, a dancer, choreographer and actress. The network says the series honors ordinary women who live extraordinary lives without fanfare. Other women profiled include an organizer for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and a Los Angeles County fire captain.

Mrs. Dellas-Thornton has her own definition of what's cool.

"A cool woman is someone who can receive encouragement and give encouragement, is someone who can hear truth and speak truth," she says. "A cool woman is someone who can be loved and can give love."

Although Mrs. Dellas-Thornton, 53, teaches rather than performs, she knows firsthand the rigors associated with the lifestyle of a dancer. She began studying classical dance at age 3 and later performed with the Royal Danish Ballet.

An injury to her Achilles' tendon ended her performance career abruptly when she was 21.

"I consider it my lucky break," she says. "It gave me chance to teach and choreograph."

A stickler for precision and perfection, Mrs. Dellas-Thornton molds her classes of 11- to 14-year-olds six days a week for four to five hours, even during the school year.

"Dance is hard. It requires a lot of dedication," she says.

"Today, children have so many problems in their families that spill out in the classroom," says Mrs. Dellas-Thornton, a mother of three. "So I teach the human being first before the dancer. It's important that the children have internal discipline, confidence and joy in what they do."

Mrs. Dellas-Thornton, a Detroit native whose teaching career spans three decades, developed her teaching techniques while living in Korea for 12 years.

"The Asian mind is very deep and very internal," she says. "The environment showed me how to develop a virtuous character and the strength needed to maintain that character while being in such an artistic field as classical ballet."

Character is important because "when a ballerina performs, you see the kind of person she is underneath the surface," Mrs. Dellas-Thornton says.

She believes that if a dancer lacks values or is selfish, the audience will not connect with the performer. Audience members will walk away from the performance awed by the dancer's abilities but untouched emotionally, she says.

In 1975, Mrs. Dellas-Thornton began the classical ballet department at the Little Angels Arts School in Seoul. Eight years later, she founded the Universal Ballet Company of Korea and taught its executive director and principal dancer, Julia H. Moon daughter-in-law of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church.

Miss Allen discovered Mrs. Dellas-Thornton's story while her daughter, Vivian Nichole Nixon, was in Mrs. Dellas-Thornton's class.

"She would sit in on my classes, impressed because the students looked so different and had improved so much with each class," Mrs. Dellas-Thornton says. "After talking to me several times, she learned that I cared for my husband, had home-schooled my children and taught at five schools to support my family."

Mrs. Dellas-Thornton serves as the sole caregiver for her husband, Mike, who suffered a debilitating brain-stem stroke four years ago.

She has supplemented her work at the Kirov Academy of Ballet by teaching at the Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts in Williamsburg, Abigail Francisco's Classical Ballet in North Beach, Md., and several other schools in the area.

She and her husband, who live in Alexandria, Va., have three children Charlotte, 20, Tessa, 18, and Joseph, 17 whom Mrs. Dellas-Thornton home-schooled as high school students.

"I went to eighth grade with my oldest [daughter] for a year," she says. "I really saw that this is where America is falling apart."

Mrs. Dellas-Thornton soon will take her teaching skills to Los Angeles. She will be director of Miss Allen's Dance Academy, which is scheduled to open in January.

"The school is dedicated to training children of every age, color and creed, providing them with an excellent education so that they can become a professional in their field," she says.

Asked if she'll retire soon, she says, "I'll teach as long as I enjoy it."

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