History Of The Royal Academy Of Dance


The Royal Academy of Dance was established in 1920 at the Trocadero Restaurant in Piccadilly, London by a small group of eminent dance professionals. Brought together by Philip Richardson, former editor of “Dancing Times“, the group included five European greats: Adeline Genée from Denmark, Tamara Karsavina of Russia, Italy’s Lucia Cormani, France’s Edouard Espinosa and Phyllis Bedells of England.

They represented the principal dance training methods of the time. It was their concern for the poor quality and badly organised state of dance training in Britain at the time that led to the emergence of the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain.
Over the next decade, the Association grew in size and influence. At the last Privy Council Meeting of King George V in 1935, the Association was granted a Royal Charter and became the Royal Academy of Dancing.

In 1997 ‘The Benesh Institute’, the international centre for “Benesh Movement Notation“, was amalgamated with the Royal Academy of Dancing. Founded in 1962, the Institute’s role to train and examine students, co-ordinate technical developments and protect copyright in choreographic works led to its system of notation being the most widely used by dance companies.
On 20 December 1999 the Privy Council granted an ammendment to the Charter and the Academy changed its name to the Royal Academy of Dance.

Photo: Judith Espinosa, Anton Dolin, Tamara Karsavina, Adeline Genée, Phyllis Bedells, Ninette de Valois and D G MacLennon


Philip Richardson, Editor of ‘Dancing Times’, arranged the first ‘Dancer’s Circle Dinner’ on July 18 1920 at the Trocadero Restaurant, London. The five guests of honour representing the five main schools of teaching, the Bournoville, the Imperial Russian, ther Italian, French & English. 30, sat down to dinner, the aim for teachers and dancers to meet, exchange ideas and ultimately raise the standards of dance teaching.
Mr Richardson at the second meeting (with some 70 attendees) three months later proposed formally the formation of an association of English teachers – Edouard Espinosa proposed and Miss de Moroda (famous Grecian classical dancer) seconded the formation of an Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing, with Genee as President.
An elementary examination syllabus is first presented to a crowded gathering of teachers at the Grafton Galleries, London where the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain was officially founded. Madame Adeline Genée is elected as the Association’s first President.


The Association establishes its headquarters at ‘Dancing Times’ offices, 25 Wellington Street, London WC2.
The Association’s first elementary examinations are held.


The Association’s first intermediate examinations held.


The Association’s first advanced examinations for teachers are held. The Association’s first Children’s (amateur) examination syllabus is published, followed by the first examinations in March 1923 with 523 candidates.


The first Children’s (amateur) examinations are held in March & April and 532 candidates from London and the provinces take part.


A scholarship scheme to the ‘Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain’ is introduced for students of members.


Over 2000 candidates applied for each of the two children’s exams, so the committee decided to introduce an extra ‘solo’ examination. Created for those who had already achieved the Advanced Certificate, candidates would have to dance a purely operatic solo arranged by herself to music of her own selection, a character or a demi-caractere dance and an impromptu variation set by the judges. This was to become known as the Solo Seal.
HM Queen Mary consents to become Patron of the ‘Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain’.


November sees the first publication of dance gazette the first issue giving a potted history of the Association. The following year, three issues were produced.


The first Genée International Ballet Competition for female dancers was held in London.


The Association’s first ‘Intermediate Teacher’s Certificate’ is introduced.


The management of the Covent Garden Opera House agreed to an alliance with the Association. In order to put the business on a proper footing a Grand Council of prestigious men & women was suggested, who would act as a sort of governing body to advise the Executive Committee.


HM King George V approves the granting of a Royal Charter to the ‘Association of Operatic Dancing’.


The Association of Operatic Dancing becomes the ‘Royal Academy of Dancing’ (RAD) when HM King George V affixes his Great Seal to the document. This is one of the final acts before his death on 20 January 1936.


The Academy’s Coat of Arms is designed by the College of Arms.


A Ball at Grosvenor House Hotel, London is held to mark the launch of a building fund for permanent headquarters.
Medals were awarded to male dancers for the first time at the Genée International Ballet Competition in London.


RAD’s ‘Teacher Training Course’ is inaugurated.


Adeline Genée, founder member, is appointed a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year Honours List.


Ninette de Valois is appointed a DBE and Philip Richardson an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours list, and in the Birthday Honours list, Margot Fonteyn awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).


HM Queen Elizabeth II consents to become Patron of the Royal Academy of Dancing on the death of Queen Mary .
Dame Adeline Genée institutes the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award to mark the occasion. The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding services to the art of ballet. The first recipient was Dame Ninette de Valois, who was presented with the plaque, designed by Mr Gilbert Ledward RA, by Dame Adeline Genée at Claridge’s Hotel. The selection panel for the first award was Sir Gerald Kelly, President of the Royal Academy of Arts; Sir Reginald Thatcher, Principal of the Royal Academy of Music; Sir Kenneth Barnes, Principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; Madame Tamara Karsavina and Dame Adeline Genée. Other winners include Sir Frederick Ashton, Dame Beryl Grey, Sir Anthony Dowell, Maina Gielgud, Gillian Lynne, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Dame Alicia Markova, Rudolf Nureyev, Dame Marie Rambert, Lady Anya Sainsbury and Sir Peter Wright. 

Margot Fonteyn is elected President of the Royal Academy of Dancing on the retirement of Dame Adeline Genée.


The Academy is granted charitable status.


First Summer School was organised by Louise Browne at Elmhurst School in Camberley. Teachers and dancers attended from USA, Canada, NZ and the UK.


Dame Margot Fonteyn devised a new children’s syllabus, which would become the basis for lower graded examinations.


Founding Member, Dame Adeline Genée dies, 23 April.


The ‘Student Teacher Certificate’, the ‘Elementary Teacher Certificate’ and the ‘Intermediate Teacher Certificate’ are all introduced.


RAD moves to its present headquarters in Battersea Square, officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1974 on completion of the refurbishment.


The ‘Dance Education Syllabus’ is introduced. Formulated for older children who had passed earlier grades and did not want to go on to take major examinations i.e. aimed at the non-professional dancer.


The ‘Professional Dancer’s Teaching Diploma’ course is set up.


The three-year Teacher Training Course is renamed the ‘College of the Royal Academy of Dancing’.


The 2nd Supplemental Charter of the Royal Academy of Dance operational.


The Phyllis Bedells Bursary is set up, named in honour of Miss Phyllis Bedells, a founder member and vice president of the Academy. The bursary, of up to £1000, is given for further training in the Academy’s method, to help cultivate young dancers of exceptional promise. Candidates, who must be 17 or younger, take class with a renowned teacher, rehearsing set and repertoire variations and perform in front of judges and an audience in the Genée Studio at Academy headquarters.
The first college workshop took place.


The ‘Children’s Summer School’ is introduced.


RAD’s first headquarters outside of the UK is established in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.


HM Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the new studios at headquarters named the ‘Fonteyn Centre’.


Dame Margot Fonteyn dies, 21 February in Panama City.
Antoinette Sibley CBE is elected as President of the Royal Academy of Dancing.
The new ‘Graded Examination Syllabus’ up to Grade 5 is introduced, replacing the ‘Fonteyn Syllabus’, and is examined in 1992. The ‘Dance Education Syllabus’ is replaced by Grades 6, 7 and 8 awards and is introduced in 1992 and examined the following year.


The first full-time degree programme – BA (Hons) Art & Teaching of Ballet – commences at the College, replacing the three year Teacher Training course.
Grade Assessments from Pre-Primary to Grade 5 is introduced to extend the opportunities for assessing children attending ballet classes.


The Royal Academy of Dancing celebrates its 75th Anniversary with events throughout the world.
The South African headquarters in Bramley, Johannesburg opens.
The second degree and first distance learning part-time programme – BPhil (Hons) Ballet and Contextual Studies – started through the College.


Antoinette Sibley is appointed a DBE in the New Year Honour List.
First 12 students from the BA (Hons) degree attended their graduation ceremony at Durham Castle.


The ‘Benesh Institute’ is incorporated into the Royal Academy of Dancing.


The ‘Faculty of Education’ is founded to replace the Royal Academy of Dance College.
Teacher Education Programme of Certificates, Diploma and Degrees are launched in partnership with the University of Durham.


The first 17 students graduate with the BPhil (Hons) Ballet and Contextual Studies .
‘Benesh Movement Notation’ distance learning course is created.
On 20 December, the Privy Council approved a change of name to the Royal Academy of Dance.


The first distance learning degree in Dance Education is launched by the RAD and validated by the University of Durham.
UK accreditation by Qualifications and Curriculum Authority of Graded and Vocational Graded examinations and their inclusion in the National Qualifications Framework. The Academy’s qualifications were recognised by the UK’s National Qualifications Framework adding credibility to the RAD as an examining body.
Royal Academy of Dance Enterprises launched it’s online shopping website www.radenterprises.co.uk
First UK ‘Performance Course’ is introduced in August.
The Siobhan Davies Dance Company is offered a temporary home by the RAD.ce.


The new Benesh Notation Editor computer programme is produced.Created to serve as a ‘word processor’ for writing Benesh Movement Notation scores, this PC software enables the production of publication quality multi-stave printed scores that can be edited, copied and stored digitally like other computer documents.
RAD takes part in unique celebrations of the arts at Burlington House as part of HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Launch of the new children’s website, www.radacadabra.org, aimed at 5 – 10 year old children who love ballet and dance. It is a safe, fun and interactive dance site where they can learn the stories of the great ballets and ‘Ask Vanessa’, our online dance teacher, questions about exams, technique or whatever they need to know. It is modelled on a real-life theatre and young visitors can explore the dressing rooms, rehearsal studio, green room, stage, auditorium and foyer.
RAD is granted Initial Teacher Training Accredited Provider Status by the Teacher Training Agency, and as a result launches the Postgraduate Certificate in Education: Dance Teaching (PGCE:DT).
The Genée International Ballet Competition is held outside London for the first time in its 70 year history. It was held at the Sydney Opera House and attracted a record number of candidates.


The first cohort of students start the PGCE:DT.
The Academy supports a successful bid to gain a license to set up Youth Dance England, an initiative of Arts Council England and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).


Youth Dance England moves into offices at Academy headquarters. YDE supports and promotes young people in dance.
RAD launches Pre-school Dance Curriculum, Dance To Your Own Tune. It supports the philosophy that movement underpins all learning and provides teachers with guidelines as to appropriate
content and methodology congruent to the motor development of young children.
The Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies is launched in the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Italy.

The Academy changes the validator for its degree programmes to the University of Surrey.
The Genée International Ballet Competition is held in Athens under the auspices of the Cultural Olympiad.
The BA Art and Teaching of Ballet will be replaced by a new degree programme, the BA (Hons) Ballet Education from September 2004.
The first cohort of students graduate from the BA (Hons) Dance Education. The Faculty of Education receives government funding from HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) for the BA (Hons) Ballet Education.


The Royal Academy of Dance in association with the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation launched the Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition. The aim of the competition is to focus attention on the popularity of ballet amongst young people and to identify, encourage and nurture their talent for the long term future of ballet.
The stars of the dance world including Darcy Bussell, Monica Mason, Jonathan Cope and Wayne Sleep joined the Members and supporters of the Royal Academy of Dance and The Royal Ballet School for a Gala preview performance of Billy Elliot – The Musical, which raised over £50,000 for the Academy.
The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) form a historic partnership this week, the first of its kind internationally. The partnership means AUT Bachelor of Dance students who pass optional RAD-specific papers will graduate with the RAD’s “Registered Teacher Status”, which is recognised internationally.
Tongli University, School of Film has entered into an agreement with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) whereby the RAD, through its Faculty of Education, will accredit courses of study delivered by the Division of Dance Studies, a department of the School of Film of Tongli University.


Sunday, 9 April saw the Final of the premier Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition at the Lowry, Salford Quays. The Judges, Sir John Tooley, Chairman of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation and David Bintley, Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet chaired by Dame Antoinette Sibley had the unenviable task of selecting two winners, one from each level. Oliver Taylor, 11 yrs old from Paignton for Level 1 and Claire Jobanputra, 13 yrs old from Bristol for Level 2.
Celebrating 50 years of the Royal Academy of Dance in Hong Kong.
From 26 August – 3 September the Academy held the Genée International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. It was a sell-out competition.
From 1st October the Royal Academy of Dance and the International Dance Teachers’ Association announced that they would be working together for the mutual benefit of their respective members. Each organization will formally grant teachers of the respective organisation the opportunity to enter candidates for its examinations thereby ensuring that both organisations recognise the right of qualified teachers to enter candidates for examinations of either awarding body, by an agreement of mutual recognition.


Royal Academy of Dance in partnership with The Jack Petchey Foundation (charitable foundation) launched a pilot community dance programme called Step into Dance teaching free weekly dance classes in a variety of genres in 30 secondary schools in four London boroughs.
After the success of the pilot programme, The Jack Petchey Foundation gave a further £179,000 for the Step into Dance programme to roll out into the additional boroughs of Croydon, Wandsworth and Merton, and Hammersmith and Fulham whilst continuing in Camden, Islington, Enfield and Haringey. 

Two candidates, 16 year old Rex Wheeler (Elmhurst School for Dance) and 15 year old Georgina Connolly (Royal Ballet School) shared the title and the prize money from the Phyllis Bedells Bursary. Both candidates received £500 to further their dance training.


Sunday 13 April saw the culmination of the 2nd Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London. 20 young dancers took to the stage, each giving a unique performance. At Level 1, the winner was Sophie Lewis, 11 years old from Guildford, at Level 2 the winner was Matthew Koon, 14 years old (13 at the time of application) from Salford.
In August the Academy held the Genée International Ballet Competition in Toronto in association with Canada’s National Ballet School and the National Ballet of Canada. The Final was held at the stunning Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and media partner Bravo! filmed a number of documentary style segments.
On 10 December 2008, her Majesty The Queen in Council allowed the proposed amendments to the Royal Academy of Dance Supplemental Charter and Bye Laws (1996).
The Academy launched its pilot Continuing Professional Development programme in the UK.


SThe Academy held the RAD Members’ Conference: Foundations to Finale at which it launched both its new Pre-Primary in Dance and Primary in Dance syllabi and the new Solo Seal Award.


In 2010 the RAD celebrated its 90th anniversary. To mark the occasion we created two e-books celebrating the most important milestones in the history of the Academy.


Now in our 95th year, we continue to promote and develop excellence in dance. Our syllabi are taught around the world and thousands of students are enrolled on our many dance courses and study programmes. Our alumni have gone on to work with the most prestigious dance companies and to become the best teachers. And, as part of our social responsibility remit, we continue to bring dance into a growing range of communities and schools.

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