RU Ballet Youth program encourages young dancers to explore their art

Photo of a RUBY instructor and student.

A RUBY instructor takes time to playfully dance with one of her pre-ballet students.

Dance is one of the world’s oldest and most important forms of cultural expression and it is alive and well in the greater Radford University community thanks to the Department of Dance and the Radford University Ballet Youth (RUBY).

RUBY is open to all members of the surrounding community and it provides ballet training to young dancers of all skill levels. Directly associated with the RU Ballet Theatre, dancers in the program have the opportunity to perform in shows on campus.

“One of our missions in the College of Visual and Performing arts is community outreach,” said Margaret Devaney, chair of the Department of Dance. “Our department got together and realized we needed a dance program for the community.”

RUBY came into being in February 2006. The program’s director, faculty member Inessa Plekhanova, quickly helped build a successful program that was able to contribute to RU’s production of “The Nutcracker” that fall.  

“We plan it so students in our RUBY classes have the opportunity to perform in our ‘Nutcracker’ and other ballet shows,” Plekhanova said. “It was very successful and we decided to keep going with the program.”

Plekhanova is joined on the RUBY program by her husband and fellow RU faculty member Aleksey Plekhanov, who teaches advanced classes including pointe technique. The RUBY curriculum follows that of the world-renowned Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia which has produced famous dancers such as Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gorge Balanchine and Natalia Makarova.

"We offer several levels of dance and our more advanced students are in what we would say are pre-professional dance programs," Plekhanova said.

Photo of students in a RUBY tap class

Students line up to dance in a RUBY tap class

RUBY also provides an opportunity for RU dance students to step in as teachers. In addition to getting paid experience as dance teachers, qualified RU students can help mentor dancers at the RUBY International Summer Intensive Program (ISIP), held annually on campus.

ISIP is a two-week, classically-based program for ballet students ages 12 and older who have a minimum of two years of ballet training and at least one year of pointe training for girls. Plekhanova, her fellow dance faculty and RU students host students from around the world designed to help them to realize their higher potential. In addition to ballet classes, students will train in contemporary dance as well.

Although many students are from local regions, ISIP attracts ballet students from around the world. In the 2013 session, 13 Japanese students lived and studied dance at Radford.

“It was a cultural exchange for everybody,” Plekhanova said. “We were all learning words from each other here and there but everyone found a way to be understood. By the time the program was over, the students were all so sad to see each other go.”

Although ISIP is a competitive program, RUBY offers classes for young dancers of all skill levels. For more information about enrollment or the dance programs, visit the RUBY website.


Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.

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Oct 2, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749