The Nutcracker Ballet: December 10 – 7pm & December 11 – 1pm at Stephens Auditorium. Click here to learn more!

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Iowa Youth Ballet

Program Directors



Artistic Director

Wendy Leopold


Ballet Mistress

Iowa Youth Ballet

Grades PS 4-12

The Iowa Youth Ballet (IYB) was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit dance company in 2001. Robert and Miyoko have served as the Executive Director and Artistic Director since its beginning. Based in Ames, Iowa, Iowa Youth Ballet provides aspiring young dancers the opportunity to further their studies and work in a professional-like environment. Performing an ever-changing array of classical and contemporary ballets, as well as character dance, the Iowa Youth Ballet has something for everyone.

Dancers may study ballet and pointe at their home studios and participate in IYB Company classes at the Dancenter. An optional variations class is also held for qualified dancers who desire to perform solos, duets or small-group dances in our ballet which is presented at our annual recital. We currently offer two company levels, based on education and experience.

Iowa Youth Ballet also hosts a two-week summer intensive, a weekend trip to attend master classes at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, as well as various workshops.

If you are interested in expanding your dance education and knowledge, IYB is a great option!!

Nutcracker Thank You

Iowa Youth Ballet Information

Where Are They Now

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Robert Thomas

Co-Founder, Owner

Robert Thomas, an Iowa native, studied dance in Iowa until 1964. The Summer of ’64 Robert received a dance scholarship to Ted Shawn’s Jacob’s Pillow in Lee, Mass. From the summer of 1964-1967, Robert retained a position in the highly competitive Harkness Ballet trainee program in New York City.

In 1967, Robert joined the Harkness Ballet of New York. With the Harkness Ballet, Robert toured the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. In 1969, Robert was offered a position with the Stuttgart Ballet, the National Ballet Contemporair, the Joffrey Ballet, the Geneva Ballet, and the second Harkness company. Accepting positions with the Joffrey Ballet, Robert performed in New York, throughout the United States, Europe and Russia. Robert Thomas has been guest artist with the Andre Eglevesky Ballet Co., Lar Lubovitch Dance Co., Jack Cole, and Stuart Hodes Ballet Close-Ups. Robert has performed in over 70 major works which include ballets by choreographers such as Ailey, Arpino, Balanchine, Boris, Cole, Cranko, Folkine, Harkarvey, Hodes, Joffrey, Lubovitch, Massing, Neumeier, Petipa, Rivera, Saddles, Sappington, Severs, Van Dancing, Walker, and Willed. Robert has appeared in a variety of media from opera and stage to television. From 1984-1986 Robert Thomas was assistant Ballet Master to the Joffrey Ballet.

In 1981, Robert and Miyoko assisted in the creation of the Iowa State Center’s Nutcracker. They have served as artistic directors each year.

Lisa Luiken-Woxell


Lisa began dancing at the age of three under the instruction of Connie Jo Wilson. She continued her training with Janet Morse, Robert Thomas, the Des Moines Ballet School, and Central Iowa Dance.

Lisa has been teaching since 1987 and is a Dance Master Certified Instructor. She has been teaching at the Robert Thomas Dancenter since 1999. Lisa also currently teaches at Ankeny Dance and Performing Arts Academy. In addition, she has taught at Connie Jo Wilson’s School of Dance, the Dancer’s Workshop, the Newton YMCA, Carol Tetmeyer Dance Studio, and Stacey’s School of Dance. Lisa has performed with Iowa Dance Theatre, The Nutcracker Ballet, the Neuman Project, the Barnstormers Flight Line, and with Dance Olympus on tour. 

Lisa is currently the Iowa Youth Ballet Regisseur at the Dancenter. She is an Iowa Youth Ballet Mistress, and teaches Ballet, Pointe, and Tap.


Wendy Leopold


Wendy started dancing in Massachusetts at age ten. She continued when her family moved back to Iowa at Ballet Iowa. She also danced non a competition team for many years. After high school, she went to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for teacher training and ballet. She has been to many summer intensives and has performed in many Nutcracker Ballets and operas, as well as Iowa Youth Ballet and ISU showcases. Wendy is a mother of three boys! Her love for teaching is enormous and she is excited to share that with the students at Robert Thomas Dancenter. Wendy is an Iowa Youth Ballet mistress and teaches Ballet, Pointe, Tap and Gymnastics classes.