Our Founder

Ballet School Old Town Alexandria

Founder Grace Machanic in her studio

Grace Manly Machanic, Founder
Grace Manly Machanic remembered taking ballet at age four when she lived in Coconut Grove, Florida, and some of the classes were held in the sand dunes where she kicked the sand to music, waved sea grass and spun in the sun. From that creative time, she moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where she began classical ballet, tap and pointe at the Floyd Ward School of Dancing. She was 15 when her family moved to Washington, D.C. where she continued ballet at the Washington School of Ballet, dancing in the annual productions and in the summer ballets at the Carter Barron Amphitheater.

When she was 17, she auditioned to appear with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in a local performance, and joined as an apprentice with the company for a brief time before a knee injury ended what was hoped to be a professional career. So she limped off to Madison College (now JMU) where she earned a BS degree in Education with an English major, and she taught English at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, all the while still dancing in local musicals and choreographing for the high school productions.

After marrying Roger Machanic she gave up teaching English to have a family, and when her two children, Bruce and Laura, were born, she began to teach dance to the neighborhood children in her home basement where the School for Swans exists today. Grace also taught ballet at several studios in northern Virginia — Mt. Vernon Academy of Dance, the Russell School of Ballet, Arlington Dance Theatre and The Athenaeum. In her later years, she had concentrated all of her teaching at her School for Swans.

In addition to teaching ballet, Grace danced in numerous musical theatre productions in northern Virginia, and during the past 30 years choreographed more than 40 shows in community and professional productions in the DC Metropolitan area, winning many nominations and awards for her choreography.  She choreographed the sold out smash hit 1776 at Little Theatre of Alexandria and succeeded in teaching eight modern men a minuet!

In August 2017, having recently returned from a Broadway Choreographers Workshop in New York with some of her long-time dance and theater friends, and just three weeks before School for Swans was due to begin its 43rd year, Grace lost her life prematurely due to a massive pulmonary embolism.

Today, her daughter Laura is carrying on Grace’s vision of introducing young swans to the joy of ballet and dance. School for Swans opened its doors in Grace’s honor in September 2017 for its 43rd year without missing a beat—just as “Ms. Grace,” as she was known to her beloved little swans, would have wanted.

Our Teachers

Cynthia Calgaro Bragg

Cindy Bragg Rehearsing

Cindy Bragg rehearsing in the studio.

Cindy Bragg took her first formal dance classes with Ms. Grace (founder of School for Swans) when she was just 3! She has continued training ever since, studying Classical Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Modern, Yoga, Stretch, and Pilates. She danced soloist roles at Radford University and choreographed for the Virginia Dance Company at UVA. Cindy has a Masters in Teaching from UVA, is certified to teach preK-6th grade in VA, and has achieved National Board Certification. She has been teaching since 1992, when she began working as an apprentice dance instructor.

In addition to teaching, Cindy serves as the Recital Producer for the annual School for Swans recital.

Elenaluisa Alvarez

Elenaluisa ballet & pointe teacher

Elenaluisa Alvarez

Elenaluisa Alvarez grew up in Lima, Peru, and trained at the Estudio de Ballet Lucy Telge, under the guidance of Gloria Centurion and Patricia Ramirez. There she was able to perform with the Municipal Ballet of Lima as Clara in the Nutcracker and Cupid in Don Q, among other ballets.

In 2013 she moved to North Carolina to study Dance Performance at East Carolina University, where she trained in ballet, modern, jazz and tap. There she earned the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA) grant highlighting choreography. After graduating in 2017 with Magna Cum Laude, she went to take part in the international Dance Journey program with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel.

She danced with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company, under the direction of Lucy Bowen, in Arlington, Virginia, from 2018 to 2021. She performed with Bowen McCauley Dance Company at the Kennedy Center in May 2019 and 2021.

After a year of performing with Wonderbound contemporary ballet company, she joined BodyVox dance company  where she is a performing artist as well as school faculty.

Elenaluisa joined the teaching staff at School for Swans in the Fall of 2018 and teaches the Pointe Strengthening class on Monday evenings.

Rachel Goldberg

Ballet teacher Rachel Goldberg

Ballet and tap teacher Rachel Goldberg on stage for the final bow with students, May 2022 recital.

Rachel Goldberg has taught dance to students of all ages, ages 2 through 92. She started teaching when she was in high school, and has been teaching in Northern Virginia for the past 9 years. Growing up in the Chicago area, Rachel had the privilege of studying at Ruth Page Ballet School, Gus Giordano Dance Center, the Ballet Russe School of Inesse Alexandrovich, and at the Interlochen National Music Camp. She learned multiple dance forms including ballet, tap, jazz, modern and folk dance before moving to New York and other East Coast locations to further her dance studies and performance.

Rachel danced with the Ballet Theater of Pennsylvania, Scranton Civic Ballet, Harrisburg Ballet, and Ballet Theatre of Maryland (formerly Ballet Theatre of Annapolis) performing classical ballet, contemporary, modern and jazz works. Rachel has performed locally with Helping Arts through the Arts. Firmly believing that everyone can dance, Rachel looks forward to sharing the joy of movement with her students.

Outside of the dance studio, Rachel enjoys the outdoors, needlework, and spending time with her husband and three children.

Amy Tsui

Amy’s bio and photo are coming soon!

Amy Tsui dancing

Amy Tsui dancing with her swans

© 2022 School for Swans, LLC
430 S. Fairfax St.   Alexandria, VA 22314
703-338-1330 | [email protected]

Photos by Louise Krafft