When we began the RAD podcast in 2021, with the UK still in lockdown, we had no idea if it would work. Could we make a podcast? Would anyone appear on it? Would anyone listen? 

We lucked out with our producer, Sarah Myles: creative, patient and very encouraging (and very fond of pets, an invaluable icebreaker for several guests). Sarah made the unknown seem less scary. When we sought a title, she asked, ‘what’s the podcast about?’ I guess it’s about why dance matters, I replied. ‘Well that’s your title,’ she said. 

Our first season launched with Xander Parish, and his astonishing journey from neglect in the corps de ballet to renowned principal dancer. Subsequent landmark dancers have included Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta, Tiler Peck and David Hallberg. We’ve also met star choreographers, RAD teachers and students, and people from other fields whose lives have been indelibly shaped by dance. All people to whom dance matters on a fundamental level.

Working on Why Dance Matters has been so fulfilling; the generous-spirited guests and immensely collaborative team help.

But more than that, it’s been the opportunity to tap into people’s passions, hear their stories, share their joys and fears. We have been welcomed into intimate conversations which use dance as a prism for the things that matter to us all – expression, confidence, community.

Since the launch, we’ve had over 28,000 downloads from listeners in over 100 countries, been ranked the UK’s top dance podcast, and received heart-warming appreciation from very kind listeners (plus the person who pointed out that my laugh was unbearable. Sorry!).

Marking our 50th episode is a conversation with Olga Smirnova. One of the world’s great ballerinas – her recent Giselle was broadcast to international cinemas in January – she made headlines in 2022 with a courageous, life-changing decision to leave Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, where she had spent her career, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Olga Smirnova in Raymonda at Dutch National Ballet. Photo: Altin Kaftira

Two years on, Smirnova has found a new home at Dutch National Ballet. Here are highlights of a wide-ranging and thoughtful conversation:

Dancing in the smartphone age Now that smartphone cameras are everywhere, each one of your performances is recorded and posted on social networks. You are conscious that you will be seen by millions of internet users, and this recording will live forever. This is a new era of being a ballerina.

Starting ballet I do not come from a ballet family, and my family was not wealthy enough to take their kids to a ballet performance. I didn’t dream of becoming a ballerina – gradually, I learned the endless beauty and harmony of ballet.

Stage fright I’ve never felt fear of the stage. Never. Later, when you are a ballerina and people expect to see some quality from you, of course there is some pressure. But once I do the first step, I become very calm. I’m just enjoying being on stage and being my character, and I’m not nervous anymore.

Leaving Russia The decision was obvious for me, so this made it easier. But of course it meant huge changes. I never lived in a foreign country before. A new language, new country, new traditions, new company – all of that was a big challenge. But I was lucky to find great support – I can confidently say that Dutch National has become my home. 

Contact with former Bolshoi colleagues Not many, just with a few people. I think they feel weird not to be able to tour or share their experience with the world, or have choreographers coming to work with them. But people don’t want to talk about it, or might be afraid to share their honest opinion.

Why does dance matter? I like to think about my body as a tool, which helps to reveal and express different emotions and share these emotions with the audience. I believe that the more people share their emotions with one another, the better they understand one another, which helps create a better and more harmonious world. Art helps us find the inspiration to exist – I just want to share this inspiration with the world.

Five favourite guests from Why Dance Matters

Xander Parish Our launch episode featured the former Genée medallist, then a principal at the Mariinsky Ballet. Xander’s resilience is inspiring – like Olga Smirnova, he has now left Russia, and is now with Norwegian Ballet.
LISTEN >

Guddi Singh The very first episode we recorded: Guddi, a doctor and broadcaster who described how dance had impacted her work and her own mental health, showed us how we might open a window on life beyond dance
LISTEN >

Benjamin Zephaniah The beloved poet and performer died last year. I’m pleased we could tell him how much his work impacted on generations of readers and listeners.
LISTEN >

Alice Oseman It was lovely to hear the creator of Heartstopper share how much they owed to their dance teacher mum and early classes.
LISTEN >

Jennifer White Speaking to the choreographer of Barbie (whose dancing life began with RAD classes) after the movie opened was a buzz – especially hearing how Ryan Gosling requested ever more silly moves.
LISTEN >

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In December, the Royal Academy of Dance launched RAD Leadership Training, an exciting initiative which uses the power and influence of movement to help corporate leaders take their leadership skills to the next level.

Designed for high potential and senior executive leaders in the corporate sector, the programme will initially be delivered by Movement in Practice, an educational platform designed by dance psychologist, Dr Peter Lovatt.

Drawing on the parallels between business and dance, RAD Leadership Training’s creatives and academics will utilise their expertise in dance education and training to help participants unlock their version of high performance, giving them renewed confidence in abilities to confront challenges, achieve sustained performance and cultivate potential in others.

Dr Michelle Groves at the launch. Photo David Tett
Leadership lessons at the RAD. Photo: David Tett

The programme was launched with an event sponsored by London Women’s Forum (LWF), the networking and thought leadership platform for senior female executives in the financial services sector in London and beyond. Power in Motion coincided with the LWF’s 20th anniversary and was attended by members and partners of LWF and other executives from the corporate and dance sectors.

Power in Motion also featured an insightful presentation by Dr Michelle Groves, RAD Director of Education, explaining how to harness the power of stillness. An inspiring session followed with Dame Darcey Bussell, giving a personal account of how she handled her career change and transition. Participants were then treated to an excerpt from The Nutcracker by English National Ballet’s Precious Adams in the RAD’s Aud Jebsen Studio Theatre.

Precious Adams performs in the Aud Jebsen Studio Theatre. Photo: David Tett

‘The power of dance is something I have believed in for some time,’ said Jane Karczewski, Chair of LWF Board, ‘being a dancer from a young age. This special event gave others the opportunity to experience the transformative power of dance and movement and how this can be applied in the business world.’ Tim Arthur, RAD Chief Executive, added, ‘beyond the art form itself, we envisage a future where the principles ingrained in dance education become pillars for effective leadership – the leadership that fosters innovation, empathy and inclusivity.’

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50 episodes of Why Dance Matters

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What first drew you to Rambert Grades?
I wanted a contemporary syllabus that would support my students as I believed it should. The syllabi that were out there were very rigid and stuck in time. I was concerned that they weren’t very reflective of contemporary, which is this evolving, breathing, changing thing. I tried to create something holistic myself, that would advance kids technically, but also allow the creative exploration that I felt was so important. It went well but it was just me. As soon as I heard whispers about Rambert Grades, I absolutely knew that was what I needed and jumped on board. It is everything I hoped for. The syllabus is reflective and encapsulates all of the history but it’s evolving, just like contemporary dance.

How have your students taken to Rambert Grades?
The structure makes sense to them. My students primarily come from a ballet background and are familiar with the process of exams. They look forward to exams, because they like that structure and the reward at the end. The second thing is the ownership they have over the material. Because the music isn’t set, we work collaboratively to find a playlist that they love, and, they get to choose the exercises and film their exam. They have a voice.

For ballet dancers, contemporary dance can develop the creative choices that they make. Then, when they come into their ballet class, they’re already thinking very openly and broadly. It also helps on a technical level, and emotionally being able to connect with the joy of movement. I find that the two work hand in hand together.

Holly Pooley leads a Rambert Grades workshop. Photo: Belinda Strodder

Is Rambert Grades building a community of teachers?
There’s so much support for the teachers, and they carry you along each step of the way. 

How do you use the material by leading choreographers like Hofesh Shechter and Alesandra Seutin who contribute to the syllabus?
There are three strands: Technical, Creative and Performance. Within the Performance strand is a solo that the student performs, a different solo for every grade. They all are so beautiful and link together. At the moment, there are two separate streams – you can choose the Hofesh stream or the Alesandra stream, depending on the dancer and what type of music they enjoy. Both choreographers are so grounded, really connected with musicality and rhythm. 

What was your own dance journey? 
I fell in love with ballet very early on, and progressed through RAD levels here in Perth. I did dabble in a little bit of contemporary, but I was a ballet kid. I ended up the other side of the world at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, UK, which was a huge plunge. When I graduated, I realised that my passion was in teaching. I loved contemporary because it’s so inclusive and it can involve so many practices of pedagogy. 

What has Rambert Grades given you as a teacher? 
It’s made me a lot calmer. I feel supported, and it’s made me think differently. One thing I love is how accessible its language is: the terms are very anatomical. If you use that same kind of mindset in ballet, you get different qualities out of the students. It’s allowed me to explore different teaching practices to help the students improve and achieve a broader range of outcomes. 

What would you say to any RAD teachers who are curious about Rambert Grades?
I’d describe the unique opportunities that the syllabus provides in terms of its thinking: its inclusivity and individuality makes both the students and you stronger. The RAD syllabus already asks teachers to be creative and develop their own training exercises. RAD ballet teachers are incredible, and Rambert Grades draws on skills they already have.

Rambert Grades
Created in a landmark collaborative partnership between Rambert dance company and Rambert School, Rambert Grades is a progressive and inclusive contemporary dance syllabus. It was created by some of the most dynamic and relevant voices of contemporary dance in the UK. Training is accessible to all ages, abilities and bodies regardless of prior experience of formal dance training. Across 11 qualifications, Rambert Grades teachers are taught to promote a safe environment for students to develop lifelong skills.

The collaboration with the Royal Academy of Dance provides RAD Members across the world the benefit of discounted membership with Rambert Grades. Learn more at https://www.rambertgrades.com/rad-global

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The best advice I ever received
The truth is like oil. It always comes to the surface.

The advice I would pass on
Patience and humility.

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Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo in their duet common ground[s]. Photos: Maarten Vanden Abeele

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Holly Pooley

Dance Gazette

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What was it like to hear Darcey Bussell announce your name as the gold medallist?

Every time I do a competition, I always think it’s a performance. I don’t necessarily think about the competition aspect, because then it becomes more pressurised and I always end up doing worse. So I wasn’t expecting anything, to be completely honest – because it’s the Fonteyn! It was scary, having to stand in front of so many people and bow and accept something so lovely. I didn’t necessarily know how to put it into words, because it’s just a very odd feeling. It’s very surreal and lovely.

Before the final, your father said you would probably be quiet and trying to focus. Is that right?

My dad knows me a bit too well! That was spot on. Before going on stage, you have to just block everyone out. I watched everyone, which was lovely, like a bunch of different variations – so when it came to my bit, I was like: this is my time to tell part of the story, this is my time to entertain people. I don’t take myself seriously – but I take this job seriously, this craft and art. Out of respect for everybody there, all the people that have bought tickets, my teachers and family getting me here and supporting me, I feel like it’s my job to get myself in that zone. So it’s not just me doing this on my own.

Jakob Wheway Hughes’ classical solo at The Fonteyn. Photo: Martin Bell

How easy is it to make classical technique your own? 

I’ve always trained in several styles: jazz, ballet, contemporary, neoclassical, tap, loads of different things. I’ll take different aspects of different things and fuse them into my ballet. Learning everything is overwhelming, but you can’t lose yourself in the technique. I’ve got teachers and people around me that will tell me, Listen, you’ve got a soul in there. You can’t just turn into a robot lifting their legs up.

At The Fonteyn there were young dancers from all over the world, and coaches seeing you for the first time – how was that experience?

I decided to treat the first half of the week as a summer school and just enjoy it and get as much out of it as I could. The faculty were lovely, and I made such good friends. We were all trying to keep afloat, work together and enjoy it properly. It was such a nice experience. 

Being with these new coaches was a breath of fresh air because they were an objective eye. They didn’t know who you were, or any of the technical features you possess. All they were looking for was the energy you gave off and how comfortable you were to watch. We did one rehearsal with Endalyn T Outlaw who was so lovely and warm. She said to me, calm it down. Whatever happens in performance is what happens, you can’t change it. Think of it as just a different version of the dance. It calmed me down, and I was able to do it the best I’d ever done, because it was a completely different correction to any I’d had before.

Judges and medallists at The Fonteyn. Photo: Martin Bell

How did dance start for you?

We’ve always been a very creative and athletic family, so we’d try everything. As a two year old, I used to spin around and kick my legs up in the air. I only properly started wanting to do ballet at the age of 10. It’s a comfortable place for me, where I can keep pushing myself to be the best version of myself I can be. 

Why does dance matter to you? 

It matters because art is important. Art matters. Also, it keeps us all connected, as a whole human race. Anybody can dance, even if it’s just dancing in your kitchen when you’re washing up the dishes. It’s a really great way of expressing oneself. If I’m sad, then I can dance. If I’m insanely happy, I can dance. Even if I’m feeling anger, which is very rare, I can dance. It’s a unique thing, and you can find yourself through it.

Jakob Wheway Hughes with judges Aaron S Watkin, Dame Darcey Bussell and Amanda Britton. Photo: Martin Bell

Artwork: Bex Glendining

Why Dance Matters

Why Dance Matters is the RAD’s podcast – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond. The latest season also includes Aaron S Watkin, Fonteyn judge and artistic director of English National Ballet, choreographers Pam Tanowitz and Drew McOnie, and the actor Nina Wadia. Please do listen and subscribe.

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A clip of Jakob performing at The Fonteyn

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Advice Bureau

Germaine Acogny

Dance Gazette

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1 Allegro con Brio from Beethoven’s Symphony No 7

Conducting always demands for you to give yourself entirely, but whenever I conduct – or even just listen to – Beethoven 7 I am always overcome by the inexorable energy and incredible vibrant freshness in this music. It makes every fibre in my body want to dance, and I challenge anyone not to feel the same way when they hear it! No wonder Wagner called this symphony ‘the apotheosis of dance.’

2 The ending of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet

2022 was my year of Romeo: MacMillan’s at the Royal Ballet, Cranko’s in Australia, and a stunning production by Veronica Paeper in South Africa. I managed to persuade Laura to marry me in Cape Town, and the Australian Ballet to employ me during the Cranko, so Romeo will always have a special place in my heart. I must have done the piece nearly 40 times in that year, and every time we got to the ending it would turn me into an emotional wreck. Isn’t it just the saddest C major in the history of music? Listen in particular to the last few bars, and to how the harmony resolves. Now listen to Bernstein’s West Side Story: there wouldn’t be one without the other!

3 Erbarme dich from JS Bach’s Matthäus-Passion

It seems a cliché to say that music and dance have always gone together, but for Bach I think music is always danced, often to surprisingly emotive effect. This is why his music, together with so many of the Baroque masters, holds such appeal for choreographers. The St Matthew Passion is one of my desert island pieces. It is a masterpiece of drama and I wish somebody would make a full length ballet of it. I love how melody and the harmony of this aria grabs at your heart, but the dance within it means that there is something visceral about one’s response.

4 The Ice Hotel by Stacey Kent

As a conductor, an amateur pilot, and also growing up with families scattered all around the world, I have been very fortunate to have travelled a lot. Honestly, it never gets any less exciting. I love all of Stacey Kent’s songs, and especially her collaboration with Kazuo Ishiguro. Ice Hotel is one of the songs they penned together, and it will always ignite my wanderlust, taking me at the drop of the first piano notes to far-flung places around the globe.

5 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, arr Callum Au and sung by Michael Bublé

I love jazz standards, and I love Bublé (though I think he should be banned at Christmas). Growing up in the UK as an immigrant from Hong Kong, London has always held this sense of romance for me and this song preserves and enhances it for my hopelessly romantic self. This particular version was arranged and orchestrated by my dear friend Callum Au, who is one of the most talented people I know. As a composer and arranger he works with some of the best in the world, but I keep thinking how he would write a really fine ballet one day…

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Jonathan Lo discusses the music of Swan Lake with Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg


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Jakob Wheway Hughes

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As I left my office for the last time I was amazed at the wave of emotions that ran through me. In an organisation that is over 100 years old, my five years at the RAD (especially with the disruptions of the pandemic) may not seem a significant span of time.

Having semi-retired after a career of over 40 years in ballet, the opportunity to work at the RAD arose. I thought it a great chance to circle back to the country where my life and career in dance began, and by returning to my roots, I hoped to help develop fertile ground for the coming generations of dancers – and hopefully to contribute to building a better tomorrow for the world of ballet that had given me so much.

I had a pretty good base knowledge of the RAD, but my years here have proven that I only knew a small part of what it is, and what it can be. I am grateful for all I have learnt by working here and for getting to know those with similar passions for our art form. It has been an adventure, a whirlwind to the very last moment, and a pleasure to work with those who have stimulated and challenged me during my time at the RAD.

‘My personal reward has always been in finding ways to help others succeed’

GERARD CHARLES

My personal reward has always been in finding ways to help others succeed. We cannot make a difference alone, and most of the ideas I have been working towards came from others around the world as potential solutions to their concerns. Fully aware that our world is a different place than the one in which many of us grew up, we have worked hard to lay a groundwork to build a better future and hopefully provide a solid foundation to spur the RAD forward.

Although I regret retiring at a point when there is so much more to accomplish I realise that life is continually moving forward, and there will always be more to achieve. I thought the time right for someone else to champion the vital artistic goals of the RAD into the future.

I look forward to seeing the future successes of our teachers and students as they benefit from the support they will receive from the RAD.

In keeping with our ballet tradition, I end with offering you a grand reverence to say that what you have seen was for you – and thank you.

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After Dancing Times ceased publication following 112 years in print, its archive is now housed at the RAD’s headquarters in London. The archive comprises around 38,000 black and white and colour prints, spanning the period from c1920–2000, making it one of the world’s largest collections of 20th-century dance.

Dancing Times was Britain’s oldest monthly dance magazine, founded in 1910 by Philip Richardson, who also founded the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain (later the Royal Academy of Dance) in 1920. The RAD will be a natural home for the extensive archive, and this acquisition has been made possible by generous support from the Linbury Trust who have made a grant towards supporting the acquisition, preservation and cataloguing of the archive, as well as enabling education opportunities for RAD students and the wider dance community.

Tim Arthur, Chief Executive of RAD, welcomes the news, saying, ‘not only was the Dancing Times pivotal in the creation of our organisation, it was a much-loved magazine that provided vital discourse around our art form. We are very touched that it has entrusted us with its beautiful collection, which we will proudly house in the Wolfson Library and RAD Archive here in Wandsworth, London.’

Eleanor Fitzpatrick, Archives and Records Manager says, ‘we are delighted to receive this incredible resource which both complements and broadens our existing collections. We look forward to preserving it as an important historical and valuable research tool for the dance community now and in the future.’ Jonathan Gray, Editor of the Dancing Times from 2008 until its closure, adds, ‘I am thrilled that this wonderful collection and resource has been saved for the nation and that it is going to be looked after by an organisation so closely associated with the Dancing Times.’

The collection includes photographs of classic productions; dance icons from Fred Astaire, Alvin Ailey and Margot Fonteyn to Carlos Acosta and Darcey Bussell; dance competitions and schools. The RAD has begun the process of transferring it to the Archive: a full catalogue is expected to take two years to complete.

To learn more about philanthropically supporting the Dancing Times photographic archive and work of the Academy, please contact the Development team for a private conversation: development@rad.org.uk / +44 2073268996

Anna Pavlova as The Dragonfly. She inscribed this photo (taken by Mishkin) for Philip Richardson in 1925

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Art of the matter

Grand reverence

Gerard Charles

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Earlier this year, Dance Gazette reported on the dance sector’s growing recognition that safeguarding was a central concern, in dance training and the profession alike. Six months on, Penny Cotton (Membership Director) and Katharine Hikmet (Safeguarding Manager) discuss how the RAD’s work has developed in this area.

What is the latest on the RAD’s safeguarding work?

Penny Cotton It has been a busy period. The main thing we have done is launch safeguarding requirements for RAD teaching members, to support them with their commitment and to take a step closer to creating a world-class safeguarding culture within dance. These new requirements reflect that goal by setting higher standards for student safety. This is about creating safe spaces where everyone can be reassured that their wellbeing is a priority. These include the need for RAD teachers to have a criminal background check every three years, declare any criminal convictions, and take part in annual safeguarding training. We want to create a baseline standard across all the countries in which we operate.

Katharine Hikmet Our international focus has meant meeting regularly with our national directors and colleagues around the world, to have wider conversations exploring safeguarding principles in their regions and countries. I’ve also held introductory sessions with our members in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and more. This is something we’re committed to constantly improving and we can only do that if we do that with our members and teams globally, everyone has to buy into the concept that, above everything else, child safety comes first.

Given international variations, can a single code of conduct or best practice be created which works for all members?

PC We believe it absolutely can be. We’re devoting a lot of time to working with our global community to create a practical, simple and impactful common framework. 

Katharine Hikmet
Penny Cotton

KH While our headquarters is in the UK, we aim to give an international context to our work, so that it remains meaningful and practical for everyone. Ultimately, we all want to safeguard and look after young people and vulnerable adults, so it’s about highlighting common themes. Creating an overarching, global approach, giving us a common foundation with national variations, is a long-term project, but it’s absolutely possible.

Do teachers appreciate why safeguarding is important?

PC Very much so, and they are responding positively to changes. Our collective goal has always been to provide a secure and supportive space for all dancers.

What safeguarding questions do members have?

KH They are very varied, depending very much on individual circumstances. Some teachers run their own dance school and don’t have anybody else to discuss these issues with. It can be as straightforward as a question about whether or not to refer a situation and to whom. We’ll talk it through and offer any expert advice we can. I’m pleased that people realise they can check in with us. We give them confidence that they’re doing the right things.

We’re opening up conversations with our members – demystifying safeguarding, but also empowering them by ensuring they have their own checks in place.

How would you describe the RAD’s safeguarding journey in recent years?

PC We’ve totally transformed how we look at safeguarding. We’ve been working on enhancing our safeguarding measures and practices including policy development, education, external collaboration and communication. Safeguarding is a continuing priority and commitment for us and in recent years I have seen a massive shift in our approach and we won’t stop until we become a world leader in this area.

What does the future hold for the RAD’s safeguarding work?

PC We will continually review and adapt our policies to changing circumstances and best practice while raising awareness, maintaining open lines of communication and providing clear channels for reporting concerns.

The next step is to look at further developing our training to support teachers. We want every member to have access to the best possible content to help them be the best teachers they can be.

KH As Penny says, it is about developing that training package, developing the existing response to safeguarding questions and making it a truly international space. The key for me is to help more people to have a deeper understanding of safeguarding. We’ve already had some very positive responses – I’m really encouraged by where we are, but we’ll never rest on our laurels.

For more information about safeguarding and resources visit:

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Dancing Times archive

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Susan Coles was an RAD registered teacher and Life Member. She started dancing at the Westbury School of Dancing in Bristol, UK, and had great success at the Bristol Eisteddfod, winning dozens of medals and trophies – including five trophies in 1961 alone. In 1956 she was awarded the Royal Academy of Dance Scholarship, going on to teach at the Avalon School of Dancing (later the Susan Coles School of Dancing) and elsewhere. When she retired her dance school was renamed the Wells Ballet School and is now co-run by her former student, Andrea Taylor.

Susan continued to teach her granddaughter, Annabel Tonkin, who is now enrolled at the RAD Dance School in Battersea. Susan’s daughter Emma Tonkin tells Dance Gazette how the family is honouring Susan’s legacy.

What was Susan like?

She loved teaching – ballet was her life, particularly teaching. She never wanted to go on stage – she was just brilliant with children. 

She grew up in in Bristol, and went to the same ballet school as David Drew, who became a principal of the Royal Ballet, and she won a scholarship at the RAD. She started teaching at 16 at the Avalon School of Dance, which she quickly took over and became principal –eventually renaming it the Susan Coles School of Dance. She also taught at junior and senior schools throughout the south west of England. At one point, she had around 800 pupils – so she was not only a great teacher but a really good businesswoman. She was her own accountant, but would also choreograph and make all the costumes for her shows. She did everything, a one-woman band. 

What kind of teacher was she?

She was an old school teacher, very strict, but she got amazing results. She never had a failure, in over 44 years. And she wouldn’t put her fees up as she might have done. She said, I’d rather have a full class than put my fees up and have some people not be able to afford them. The proceeds of every show she did went to charity.

Was the RAD important to her?

She was tremendously proud of being an RAD teacher. I found a lovely letter inviting her for a scholarship interview, when the RAD was still in Holland Park. Later, she was asked to represent the RAD at the opening of their headquarters in Battersea Square in 1974, and had tea with the Queen, representing the RAD. There’s also a little letter inviting her to have coffee with Dame Margot Fonteyn. Sadly, my mother didn’t get to see the RAD’s new London home, but I find it very moving to watch my daughter’s ballet classes there – especially the older teachers, who are of my mother’s generation.

How did you decide how the bursary would work? 

When she died last year, it felt right to honour her and her love of ballet. She was always so inclusive in her teaching, especially for people who couldn’t afford it, so it came to me that we could help a dance student who needed financial assistance with lessons, exams and uniforms. It felt like a fitting tribute. We knew we couldn’t just make a one-off payment, because if we’re going to give a child an opportunity, we’ve got to keep it going. I’ve asked the RAD to select someone who shows promise and really wants to carry on. When they finish their RAD training, we plan to then select someone else – the bursary is ongoing. My mother would have loved to know that someone would be able to carry on dancing. 

What advice would you give to someone considering setting up a similar scheme?

Think about the longevity of the bursary. It’s a commitment – you can’t dangle a carrot in front of a young dancer and then walk away. It was also important that it linked to my mother’s ethos – I knew that she would want someone in need of financial assistance, because she would go above and beyond for her pupils. We drew on what was most important to her. 

Your mother’s legacy is also in the hearts and minds of all the people she taught. 

That’s one of the lovely things about teaching – it does live on in that way. She told me that one of her pupils became a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, and saw a little girl who had something wrong with her hips and could barely walk. So this doctor sent this little girl to my mother, and by the end of one term she was galloping and skipping around the room. It’s so rewarding – I loved hearing that story. 

The Susan Coles Bursary will support a young dancer at the RAD’s Dance School. It will provide lessons, uniform and an exam each year for a promising young dancer who has begun learning ballet but due to financial circumstances may be unable to continue with lessons.

Thinking of supporting a bursary? The Royal Academy of Dance is a registered charity and we are extremely grateful for all of the philanthropic support that enables us to carry out our important work. We are always looking to create more opportunities for young dancers around the world to access dance and to train as teachers. By supporting a bursary you can help ensure that young people can experience the chance to learn with us, no matter what their background is. We are truly grateful for every act of generosity. To find out more about supporting a new bursary please contact Isobel Turner, Head of Major Gifts iturner@rad.org.uk and +44 (0)20 7326 8996.

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Safeguarding

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