Thirteen Northern Virginia arts groups will benefit this year from more than $21,000 in matching grants approved by the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

The grants range from $256 for the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra's Youth Concert Program to $5,000 for the Virginia Ballet Company in Springfield.

The codirectors of the ballet company -- the husband and wife team of Oleg Tupine and Tania Rousseau -- say they are delighted with the grant, the largest the company has ever received. The funds will be used for performances by guest artists in the company's spring concert series.

"We're elated," Tupine said recently. "We're the only nonprofessional dance group to do productions with full scenery and sets. It has been a big strain for us; this will help."

This spring, Tupine said the company plans to choreograph a new work -- "usually, we do a new ballet in May" -- or offer a production of "Sleeping Beauty."

The ballet company has benefited from several commmission grants. A $2,000 grant four years ago helped fund a bicentennial production, and more recently another $2,000 supported the critically acclaimed premiere of "The Little Humpbacked Horse."

That production, choreographed by Rousseau, was a ballet set to a Russian fairytale. The ballet was particularly close to Tupine's heart, because of his Russian heritage.

Although his parents were born in Russia, Tupine says, he was born in Turkey and grew up in France where he began his professional career with the Ballet Russe Company in Europe. "I joined the original Ballet Russe Company in 1938 as a member of the corps de ballet and later served as a principal dancer with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (the successor to the Ballet Russe)," he said.

Tupine has been working in the metropolitan area since 1961, and has served as ballet master for the Washington School of Ballet and the National Ballet.

Rousseau, who was born in Rumania, founded the Virginia Company in 1965. In addition to her directing duties, she is the company choreographer.

Along with the professional company, Tupine and Rousseau run a dance school which has about 350 students aged 7 to 17.

One of the rewards of teaching is watching their students go on to professional careers with companies such as the American Ballet Theater, the New York City Ballet and regional companies such as the Houston Ballet. An even greater reward, the two dancers say, is having their students return to them -- even if only temporarily.

"Some students come back to us as guest artists. We may consider using the grant for some former student, who has gone on this year, to come to perform, although they're usually busins dancing with their own companies when we're performing here," Tupine said with a chuckle.

The Virginia company usually stages two major concert series a year, one at Christmas and another in the spring. The Christmas series this year will be "The Nutcracker," at 8 p.m. Dec. 26 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 27 through 31. All performances will be at W. T. Woodson High School, 9525 Main St., Fairfax. Proceeds from the Dec. 31 performance will be donated to the Annandale and Dunn Loring rescue squads.