D.C. dance institute helps guide teens to a better life

Struggling teenagers on a collision course with trouble are finding their way to a better life—by dancing. Leading the way is the founder of the Dance Institute of Washington, Fabian Barnes.

In many ways dancing has saved Donte Corley's life.

“I basically got kicked out of my mother’s house, so, I was on the street,” said student Donte Corley.

“It was kind of hard. It was like a struggle, but I let dancing take over my life,” Corley said.

Donte found dancing, and Fabian Barnes found Donte.

Barnes and the other mentors at the Dance Institute of Washington are helping Donte get his GED and get into college.

It “taught me how to be more independent on what I want to do, because now I want to go to school for business,” Corley said.

At times like an Army drill sergeant, Barnes gives disadvantaged teens a place to belong, hot meals and help with homework. They go on college tours and some even spend summers at the dance theater of Harlem where Barnes studied.

“Not everybody is going to be a dancer, but the discipline they learn in the studio can be transferred into anything,” Barnes said.

So the future looks very promising for these young people as Barnes teaches them to dance—and to dream.

“I want to be a pediatric nurse and I want to open my own dance studio,” said student Khadijah High.

“I've really seen students really blossom,” Barnes said.

In the fifteen years since Barnes founded the institute, it has become one of the largest African American arts organizations in D.C.