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Dance’s Inessa Plekhanova is the 2014 Distinguished Creative Scholar

Inessa Plekhanova

Inessa Plekhanova during the final bows of an RU "Nutcracker" performance.
Photo by Ivan Morozov.

Inessa Plekhanova, associate professor of dance, has perfect posture and poise even in the most unkind weather, as witnessed during Radford University’s 2014 Commencement ceremonies. And even in rain-soaked regalia, this type of dignity was as it should be when winning an esteemed award.

It was during the opening ceremony that her contributions to RU were singled out. Plekhanova, who is an associate professor of dance, won the Radford University Foundation’s Distinguished Creative Scholar Award for her consistent record of creative contributions to her academic discipline.

“Professor Plekhanova provides our students with ‘Russian’ classical ballet training and performance technique that is pure, authentic and very rare to access in this country and other countries throughout the world. Her devotion and commitment to teaching is exemplary,” says Margaret Devaney, chair of the Department of Dance and incoming dean of the CVPA.

Plekhanova’s creative contributions to dance are innumerable. She is an internationally recognized expert in the Vaganova method of ballet technique. Her training and coaching fully prepared the dancers for the rigors of the classical work. Along with this she is also the director of RU Ballet Program and artistic director of RU Ballet Theatre.

Hand in hand with teaching and mentoring her students she believes in providing full-scale production performance opportunities for them. At RU, she has choreographed and staged Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker” on four occasions and produced five “Evenings of Ballet.”

 She says, “The relationship between my teaching and my scholarship is a two-way street. Without developing and polishing my students' dancing skills I would not be able to engage them in my ballet productions. At any rate, those public performances would not succeed if my teaching did not ensure their success.”

In addition she hones her skills by presenting master classes in the Vaganova method and acting as a judge at prestigious international ballet competitions. On many occasions she has judged the Tsukuba International Ballet Competition, the Hearts and Minds Ballet Competition, and was invited as a special guest to the Japan Grand Prix Ballet Competition.

She states that judging is linked to her teaching, “Once I act as a judge, I recruit international students to my RU Ballet Youth International Summer Intensive Program. This program established in 2007 is growing.” By teaching these students, new judging opportunities present themselves and she believes the summer program itself enhances the international stature of RU.

Plekhanova began her ballet training at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where she received both her B.F.A. and M.F.A. Then she worked as a soloist at one of the leading Soviet ballet theaters, in Tallinn, Estonia. In 1991, she became the soloist at Colorado Ballet in Denver and subsequently became the artistic director for the Academy of Colorado Ballet and of Colorado Ballet II.

“In 1994, I received a U. S. permanent residency permit (a green card) based on my ‘extraordinary artistic ability.’ In 2005, I accepted professorship at RU and became the artistic director of RU Ballet Theater,” she reminisces.

Her impact and creativity is not singularly experienced by the College of Visual and Performing Arts, but is campus and community wide. She has received high praises by those in other colleges at RU.

“Inessa Plekhanova allows us to witness dance spectacles of unparalleled beauty, she connects us with the world of high art, and she is a dedicated teacher and creative scholar,” says Grigory Ioffe, professor of geospatial science at RU.

One of Plekhanova’s former colleagues at RU’s Department of Dance, and currently visiting associate professor of jazz dance at Shenandoah University, Bob Boross, concludes in his recommendation that he wrote on her behalf to the nomination committee for the Distinguished Creative Scholar Award:

“I am a seasoned dance educator and a member of the Advisory Board of Dance Teacher magazine. I have witnessed decades of ballet instruction for pre-professional, collegiate, and professional dancers. As a comparison, I can say that the training that professor Plekhanova brings to RU dancers is equal to that given in the training academies of major American ballet companies.”

He says he cannot think of another regional college dance program in the U.S. that could match the performance of not just one RU dancer, but a full corps of RU dancers.

“Her uniquely strong knowledge in the Vaganova ballet method has significantly impacted the dancers of Radford University, not to mention other equally strong dancers throughout the world. She is tireless in her efforts to share her knowledge of the Vaganova and Russian Ballet methods, and always brings her students up to match the high expectations of this important ballet tradition.”

Jun 20, 2014

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