The award-winning artist Zi Ling has been announced as the winner of the RAD’s portrait competition, launched to celebrate its brand-new global headquarters.

Artists from across the UK were asked to submit a portrait proposal of pioneering ballet dancer and founding RAD President Dame Adeline Genée, hoping to win a chance to create a painting for the RAD’s new home. The competition was created to honour the legacy of Dame Adeline’s extraordinary contribution to modern British ballet, ensuring that her portrait will be seen and admired by RAD staff, teachers and dancers alike for generations to come.

Zi Ling’s winning design for the portrait.

A judging panel of singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis-Bextor, royal portraitist Ralph Heimans and Shevelle Dynott, former English National Ballet Dancer, alongside RAD President Dame Darcey Bussell, presented the winning commission to Zi Ling, a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour. The judges were hugely impressed by the over 60 entries, but felt Zi’s bold, expressive, and contemporary interpretation truly captured Genée’s essence.

I am very excited about this wonderful project,’ says Zi Ling. ‘As a painter, I specialise in portraits and figurative works – with my favourite subjects being dancers. The spirit of a dancer lies in their movements and rhythm, and I was inspired to paint Dame Adeline because of her distinctive mark on our history and society. In order to capture her beauty as well as her talent, the final portrait will be created in a water-based and pastel medium as a tribute to Degas and his famous ballet dancer paintings.’

Zi Ling.

Dame Darcey Bussell says, ‘I can’t think of a more fitting way to mark this new chapter in the RAD’s history than with this extraordinarily vibrant portrait. I can’t wait to unveil the new commission from Zi Ling in our brand-new home for dance.’ The proposal was also praised by judges Sophie Ellis-Bextor (for ‘her bold use of colour and depiction of Dame Adeline in a thoroughly modern light’) and Shevelle Dynott (‘I am sure Dame Adeline would have been thrilled’). The portrait artist Ralph Heimans adds, ‘with so many strong contenders, it was Zi’s proposal that really captured a sense of movement and bowled the judging panel away with her strong use of colour.’

Five other artists were highly commended in this competition supported by Freed of London: Caroline Assheton, Thea Beyleveld, Sophie Peters, Abby Hope Skinner and Siobhan Tate.



1 Dance Me to The End of Love by Leonard Cohen

A beautiful blend of folk music and poetry. Cohen sings about the kind of relentless love we all dream about.

2 Mein Hertz Brenz by Rammstein

The piano instrumental version is my go-to music during an improvisation process. It changes the atmosphere in the studio and provokes invested and emotion-driven dancing.

3 Stabat Matar by Pergolesi

This was the score to the first short choreographic work I made. I remember listening to this on headphones, my first time travelling alone on an overnight ferry from Athens, and looking up at the stars.

4 Creep by Radiohead

My friend and composer Rachael Dease recorded a beautiful cover version of this for our recent creation Here Not Here for Gothenburg Dance Company. This song breaks my heart.

5 Electric counterpoint by Steve Reich

I love the minimalist music movement, and Steve Reich is one of my heroes. My teenage daughter can play this on the saxophone – which makes me very happy.

Maxine Doyle is co-director and choreographer of Punchdrunk’s The Burnt City at One Cartridge Place, London SE18, until 4 December.

Big Picture

Life in colour

Dance Gazette

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The best advice I ever received Something an aged dancer once told me, ‘I have nothing to teach you. Continue with me for at least five years.’ I made a decision. I realised that dance was something that you don’t learn from someone, but study, and I never went there again. After that I started to research and study by myself. It was clear to me that time was yours, and you had to make your future by yourself. And with that determination, everything in front of me seemed to open up.

The advice I would pass on I would pass on these very simple words: ‘It is a good thing not to know. Feel reassured and continue, with patience.’

Teshigawara and Rihoko Sato in Tristan and Isolde. Photo: Akhito Abe
Tristan and Isolde. Photo: Ketaro Nemato
Tristan and Isolde. Photo: Mariko Miura

Maxine Doyle

Dance Gazette

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How can an arts organisation be a ‘Good Neighbour’ to its local community?

Being a good neighbour as a cultural institution is about using the skills, assets, knowledge, privileges and partnerships that you have and sharing them with the people closest to you in the community you operate in. It is about being part of a place and investing in it so you contribute to making it better for everyone, not just yourself. It is about being generous, opening a door and letting people in. 

In essence, it is about taking on mutual stewardship of an area along with all its other members, supporting a collective and co-created approach to making projects happen that honour everyone together.

What do you hope the RAD can do for the local community in Wandsworth – and how can working with the community enrich the RAD’s work?

I hope the RAD can open the door wide to let people in, sharing what it has with others.

This isn’t so much what the RAD can do by itself, but what everyone can do together! It is about creating models of collective action and setting a shared vision and plan to collectively bring more to the Wandsworth area and ensure that everyone benefits. Working together on projects that investigate and celebrate identity in the area, we can learn from each other and get closer as citizens. 

By working with the community and giving energy and support to it, the RAD will create a framework of trust and mutual respect. In return, it will hopefully be seen as an important part of the community’s assets and a place that is open to everyone – a home. Dance (as with many other art forms) can often be seen as not for everyone. But as trust and mutual respect build, people will be more interested in learning more and trying some of the classes and programmes that the RAD has to offer. 

This is truly about creating a home for dance that is reflective of the needs of the community.

How do you ensure that this work takes root and continues to develop?

We will establish an Arts Action Group in Wandsworth to make decisions with us around the projects they want to see and how to support them. This ‘asset based community development’ model of working honours local people as experts. The group’s members could include leaders of tenant and resident groups, the head teacher at the local school, someone who has run the corner shop for 30 years, the lollipop person – community leaders. 

Together we will commission projects: some quick and light, some longer and deeper that allow us to collectively co-create and co-produce work and forge stronger partnerships through doing so. It will allow the RAD to get to know its new neighbours and partners and for everyone to learn how to work together: how to fundraise, commission and produce community projects for everyone. As the group continues to create together, ambitions will rise and projects will get deeper and more risk taking. 

Key to the commitment to the Good Neighbour Programme is the fact that the RAD will hire a new team member in to support the work so there is one representative from RAD at the table for all community-facing work – ensuring that the partnerships, knowledge and networks are continually kept and held.

What led you to found Take A Part?

I started out on a project in a community in Plymouth called Efford. They were going through a regeneration process and wanted to bring in some creative projects to support engagement. Through a huge amount of trial and error, some tears and a few arguments, I came to understand that more people engage in and have ownership over projects if they asked for them. So I started asking. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since!

Have you ever taken dance classes?

You know, I never have. Maybe this is my time!


Advice Bureau

Saburo Teshigawara

Dance Gazette

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HRH The Duchess of Cornwall formally opened the new state-of-the-art Royal Academy of Dance global headquarters on 10 March. Created as a new international home for dance, the new building in Battersea will enable the RAD to expand on its 100-year commitment to high-quality dance education and to bring the transformational power of dance to more people, regardless of age, ability, or location.

The Duchess, Vice-Patron of the RAD since 2020, was given a tour of the building by the RAD’s outgoing Chief Executive, Luke Rittner, and its President, Dame Darcey Bussell. ‘As the very proud Vice-Patron of the RAD,’ she said after unveiling a commemorative plaque, ‘I would like to congratulate everybody who has made this wonderful new building possible. Having had a very short tour of it, seeing its complete magnificence, it’s just doing so much for so many young people – and old people like me. As a Silver Swan myself, I was inspired by my first visit here to try it out and I have been doing it ever since.’

After meeting RAD students training to become dance teachers, the Duchess continued onto a Silver Swans ballet class for learners aged over 55, delivered by her own teacher and Silver Swans Licensee, Sarah Platt. They were joined remotely by a class in Perth, Australia led by Jamelia Gubgub. The Duchess is herself a ‘swan’, as part of her ongoing commitment to championing active aging. She also met participants from the RADiate programme, which provides subsidised inclusive dance classes designed to develop the physicality and boost the self-esteem of children and young people with additional learning needs.

A dance presentation in the brand-new studio theatre, which moved from ballet to hip-hop, included performances from the Step Into Dance initiative; the Step Hip Hop Company is run in association with ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company and develops technique and choreographic skills in dance styles influenced by hip hop culture.

The Duchess also congratulated the winner of the RAD’s art competition for primary schools in Wandsworth. Young children from across the borough were invited to submit a piece of artwork inspired by how dance makes them feel. The winner, Richard aged 8 from Alderbrook Primary School, presented his work to the Duchess, alongside runners up Indiana and Genevieve.

Before leaving, the Duchess paid tribute to Luke Rittner, ‘who has done such a wonderful job over the years,’ and concluded, ‘I just want to say again how proud I am to be part of it all.’


Kim Wide

Dance Gazette

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What sparked your interest in dance?

I’d always loved to dance and been a performer in my house. There was an understanding from my parents that this kid had to have attention! There was a New York City Ballet special on PBS, and I became hooked seeing Albert Evans dancing Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels – I had never seen anything like it. Then I got a gift for Christmas of NYCB in The Nutcracker – and beyond the costumes and amazing dancing, it was the snow scene that was captivating to me. One of the snowflakes was Black – she was really good, and I spent the whole time watching her. She gave me permission to say: I could be up there too.

Was it easy to make the decision to pursue a career in dance?

In retrospect, I didn’t know what it meant to be a dancer. My path to pursuing dance and being here at Houston Ballet has always been a search for community. The dance studio has always been a place where I could turn the volume up to 10 on who I am. It’s equal parts wanting to be the best dancer I can be, but also searching for a place where my identity and who I am can be at maximum.

Harper Watters and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama in Come In. Photo: Amitava Sarkar (Houston Ballet)

How did a pair of very high, pink heels and a gym treadmill launch your social media career?

There was a group of openly gay boys in the company at the time – it felt like a golden age, but we were probably so obnoxious! One of the boys was leaving the company and walked into the gym one night with two pairs of giant pink heels. We wondered what would happen if we wore them on the treadmill, and one thing led to another. It was very impromptu – we filmed it, I posted it and turned my phone off. When I reopened my phone there were a lot of likes and comments. It was a wake-up call to the power of social media. I thought, now that I have people watching I want to bring them into my world as a classical dancer.

How have you carried that forward?

One thing I’ve learned through my social media career is that visibility is currency. Not necessarily monetary, but the power to show people that they can do it. What I try to do with my social media is to lean into what makes me happy, and if that inspires other people to take that first step then I feel I’m accomplishing something. The series [about previous dancers of colour for Black History Month in the US] I did on social media is my way of acknowledging the dancers who were doing it first – I feel I owe that to them.

Artwork: Bex Glendining

Why does dance matter to you?

I feel I would have answered this differently a few years ago. But right now, dance is about a legacy for me. It’s so important to be confident, unapologetic, authentic, fabulous in what you do. I’m not just doing it for myself but for so many others. Dance matters because I want to continue that legacy. And it’s also really fun to do!

Why Dance Matters

Why Dance Matters is a new podcast from the RAD – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond. We hope these insightful personal conversations – hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette – will delight and inspire you.

The third season of Why Dance Matters also includes Carlos Acosta, opera star Joyce DiDonato and RAD President Dame Darcey Bussell. Please do listen and subscribe.

Inside RAD

A royal opening

Dance Gazette

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Dance should be rooted in the art form and not simply its rules or theoretical practice. If dance, as the Britannica defines it, is ‘the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music, expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy or simply taking delight in the movement itself’ – then we must always consider how to release and share that expression and delight.

Ballet itself has been developed by numerous people, in multiple countries over time, and is in constant evolution through the participation of many more. Influenced by different hands – almost ‘open sourced’! – and not owned by anyone in particular, it is no wonder opinions on what constitutes ballet can vary so widely. 

Of course, within their dance classes RAD teachers should assist students to demonstrate a good, solid ballet technique to facilitate the syllabus. Although ballet depends on secure technique, it must also transcend it. After all, the word ‘technique’ derives from the Greek tekhnē (art), and literally means ‘to do with art or an art.’ So technique, like dance, is an art! 

Ballet technique is neither static nor invariable, and is acquired as part of a journey that must consider anatomy, kinaesthetics, physical and mental development and aesthetics amongst others. We develop our technique not just from tradition, but from a grounding in our personal starting point and the incremental steps we take to achieve the refinements we seek. Every individual evolves differently, and our students must also understand the impact of their own involvement beyond simply following instructions. 

‘Although ballet depends on secure technique, it must also transcend it. Technique, like dance, is an art!’

Take turnout as an example. It is relative to the body, it is not geographic, and the degree to which it is achieved will vary from dancer to dancer. Although turned out feet are the most obvious external indicator, we know that turnout does not come from the feet. Beyond the concept of rotating the legs, we must consider what other parts of the body are actively involved in that rotation and where tension or strain must be removed to permit it to happen. This is not in the legs alone – turnout depends on complete body placement and core strength. 

Turnout is not a static picture, or a gripped position, it must function through all movements. Even if a dancer holds a perfectly placed, turned out first position they must then build on that as they move through successive moves and positions. Understanding how turnout is connected and adapts to all movement is essential – in ballet, nothing happens in isolation.

I look forward to sharing more with you in future issues.

Why Dance Matters

Harper Watters

Dance Gazette

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