Robert Cole
Artistic Director

Robert has directed the Central Ohio Youth Ballet for 23 years. For the company, he has restaged a number of full length story ballets including La Fille Mal Gardée, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Giselle and The Nutracker and he has set dozens of shorter original ballets. Robert’s solid background in classical ballet gives him a solid foundation upon which to draw his ideas and to engage his skill in adapting these works to his young cast of dancers, while maintaining much of the character, story and movement of the traditional works.

Robert danced for five years with the National Ballet of Canada, considered one of the world’s top tier ballet companies. While there, he was fortunate to have worked under the direction of Alexander Grant and Eric Bruhn. While with the company, he toured throughout Canada, Europe and the United States performing numerous character and soloist roles. A few that he particularly enjoyed were Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alain in La Fille Mal Gardée and The Short Guy (hamming it up) in Elite Syncopations.

Robert’s early training was in response to an ankle injury he sustained as a high school athlete. Upon the advice of his physical therapist, he began classes at Mary Lynn’s Ballet Arts (now California’s Riverside Ballet Arts), where he studied alongside noted dancers Darci Kistler and Kip Houston. Robert was a passionate student, finding that his athleticism and ability to perform blended into a field of study where he excelled. From his California base, he went on to train at the National Ballet School on a full scholarship and subsequently as a corps member of National Ballet of Canada.

Following his five years with the National Ballet of Canada, Bob turned his attention to develop his artistic skills as a photographer, as his foster father taught photography at the college level and was thrilled to mentor him. Robert worked professionally in photography for a few years, but was not quite finished with ballet and chose to go to New York to take a take a position with Dennis Wayne’s Dancers for a three month tour in Italy. Additionally, Robert has been a guest dancer with many regional companies and from 1994-2004, he taught ballet and choreographed numerous works for the Denison dance department.

Robert also founded The Ballet Academy in Newark, Ohio, a dance school that shares its home with the Central Ohio Youth Ballet, both emphasizing solid technique in primarily ballet and modern dance. He has continued his connection with the National Ballet School by periodically attending their summer teacher training sessions, working with neuromuscular specialist, Irene Dowd as well as the faculty at The NBS. Robert’s students have been accepted, many with scholarships, for further training at such schools as The National Ballet School, Julliard, Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, The Rock School, The Joffrey Ballet, The Kirov Academy, North Carolina School of the Arts, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Gelsey Kirkland Academy and with David Howard. His students have also gone on to train, apprentice or dance professionally with companies including Munich Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, BalletMet, The Joffrey Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Rochester City Ballet, Light of the World Ballet, and others.

Lisa Cole
COYB Co-Founder

In partnership with Robert Cole, Lisa Cole created the modern dance branch of the Central Ohio Youth Ballet. The intention was to create and offer a platform of solid training for dancers with specific interests; as a result, they could grow, develop, and thrive. With Lisa’s background in ballet and her breadth of training in Cunningham technique, Lewitzky technique and ballet, her vision for concert level work from the COYB dancers blended seamlessly with Robert’s.

Like Robert, Lisa’s ballet training base was mostly in California at Riverside Ballet Arts, with Bella Lewitzky Dance Company member Fred Strickler, and with UC Riverside faculty member Stephanie Gilliland. Like Robert, having come to dance late in life (her first dance class was at the age of 19), Lisa’s path in the field was unconventional. After training solidly in ballet and in modern dance, Lisa was accepted into the university based regional company Groundwork, directed by Stephanie Gilliland, where she danced for two years. From there, she began pursuing an MFA at Ohio State where she was thrilled to work with former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members Ellen Cornfield and Louise Burns. Lisa was encouraged to go to New York and pursue training at the Cunningham Studio, where she accepted a yearlong scholarship, and where she loved the intricacies and technicality of the work. Lisa’s path then led to teaching and choreographing for young dancers . She has choreographed dozens of modern pieces for The Central Ohio Youth Ballet which have been showcased in its spring productions. Other pieces were created for the Northeast Ohio Dance Festival and for the Ohio Dance Young Artists Showcase at The Capitol Theatre in Columbus. In addition to her dance training, Lisa holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of California Riverside where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Lisa also maintains full certification in Stott Pilates and maintains a studio in Newark, Ohio.

Rehearsal Assistants

Brittany Gagne

Brittany first danced with Central Ohio Youth Ballet, in the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, as a student at Denison while pursuing a degree in biochemistry. She previously trained with Connecticut Concert Ballet under the direction of former American Ballet Theater dancer, Brian Adams in Manchester, CT . While at the Connecticut Concert Ballet, she also trained with Wendy Fish and David Lawrence. Additionally, as a teen, she pursued intensive training during the summers at the Walnut Hill School. At Denison, Brittany studied both modern dance and ballet to achieve a minor in dance. Brittany also holds an MS in chemistry from The University of Utah and a PharmD from The Ohio State University. She currently works as a pharmacist in Newark and she teaches at The Ballet Academy.

Vanessa Tharp

Vanessa began her dance training at Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy in Norwalk, Ohio where she focused on ballet and pointe. She continued her studies at The University of Akron where she majored in Dance Performance. Vanessa got a taste of the professional ballet world as an intern with the Ohio Ballet, a contemporary ballet company then under the direction of Heinz Poll. Vanessa has performed in COYB’s The Nutcracker and she has choreographed for COYB’s Bravo!. Vanessa is currently teaching at The Ballet Academy and at Shining Star Dance Studio in Loudonville. Vanessa lives in Mount Vernon with her husband, Terry, and their daughters, Madeline and Gabrielle.