Dancer, director, musician – this former resident of Sparta does it all!

With roots that began at the Montessori Alpine School in Sparta, 27-year-old Daryen Rubin has a lot going for her. In the past two months, this former resident of Sparta released his first song and music video, featuring Grandmaster Caz, and launched a short film in Manhattan that Rubin directed and wrote.

Rubin, or Ru, is a non-binary actor, model, director, dancer, choreographer, and writer who began his creative journey as a gymnast at just three years old. Ru then took up ballet, taking lessons and performing at local dance studies such as The Ballet Barre in Newton and the Branchville Dance Center. And his passion for physical expression ignited.

But Ru’s creative energy could not be contained. Even though their dance teachers described them as “natural”, Ru said they were kicked out of dance class for having an “attitude”. So after 10 years tiptoeing through the local Sussex County dance scene and a few years with his family in South Carolina, Ru set his sights on bigger stages. Much to their parents’ chagrin, Ru traveled to New York alone to audition for a spot at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York City when he was 13 years old.

“Once I was accepted, there was no way I was going back,” Ru said. Their parents shipped items like clothes to their new home in New York and they never looked back. Ru spent five years training with the school and even starred in big shows like “The Nutcracker.” But once they turned 18, Ru started acting and directing, and even spent some time in Indonesia for some soul-searching.

Ru’s wild journey took them to places like Manhattan’s bondage scene, as a dominatrix, and even included time working for the now-defunct news and digital media verification website “Knife of Aristotle. which was partly created by notorious sex trafficker Keith Raniere. Ru met Raniere only once, at a social gathering organized by other members of his “NXIVM” organization. Ru described Raniere simply as “clumsy”. But this venture was short-lived; Ru saw the cracks forming in the NXIVM system and walked out a few months later, quickly stepping back into the mainstream fray by taking a video production job with Yahoo Finance.

During this time, Ru also directed the short film “Demin”, featuring young trans activist Jazz Jennings. The 15-minute film illustrates the abuse young trans children face from their peers and society as a whole. He received a lot of acclaim and was even recognized by Ian McKellen, best known for his role as Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise. It can be viewed on YouTube.

Ru has also directed music videos, commercials and other short films for production companies with Netflix and A&E. But while those efforts pay the bills, Ru prefers a life of constant movement, having multiple irons fired at once. And that brings us to the two big ventures that Ru took on this summer.

Ru’s film “-7” debuted on July 9 at Village East in Angelika in the city. It offers a new way of looking at mental illness. The name, a play on the phrase, Lucky #7, also means that these are just seven of the many mental illnesses people face every day. Seven done, lots more to do.

“Through the power of interpretive movement, seven dancers embody mental health issues to visually manifest the unseen suffering of the mind,” reads the film’s description. Ru said they had this idea for a while, due to frustrations they had with the way society shows mental health.

“It’s not treated in the same way as a broken arm,” Ru explained. “It’s easier to believe when you can see it.”

To help illustrate these concepts, Ru chose to highlight seven common mental health disorders: dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. Ru then let the dancers select the disorder they were most connected to or actually struggled with, and they worked together to bring those mental disorders into a physical realm using dance.

Discussing their decision to use dance to illustrate mental illness, Ru explained, “I felt like a lot of the dance pieces I learned were so superficial – being a pretty girl falling in love; I never felt like the stories told were relevant to me.

Two of the dancers were from the New York City Ballet, two from the Dance Theater of Harlem, one from the Trokadero Dance Company, and two were independent. Ru choreographed the dancers’ movements based on the symptoms of each disease they represented. Even the music for each disorder was composed based on the symptoms.

“Dancing has always been a form of expression for me,” Ru said. “It was my only outlet for freedom when I had no one to take care of me.”

The entire production was put together with the help of volunteers and donated studio space.

Following their second film debut, Ru moved on to the next iron: a musical single featuring Grandmaster Caz, a former member of hip-hop group The Cold Crush Brothers. Ru’s single, “My Parasite”, is described as “dark, electro-pop”. Ru’s voice hits hard as they describe an old love that just can’t let go.

“My Parasite” is now available worldwide on all streaming platforms (including YouTube). The song is the lead single from Ru’s debut EP, which is due out later this year.

He’s a former resident of Sparta who deserves to be watched!

Ru can be found on Instagram @daddi_ru.