Dancing is about expression and sharing and so I am delighted that through The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition we are once again able to give young dancers a chance to come together, to share their dancing with each other and our audiences, and to gain new experiences that will enrich their lives. I hope that a greater number of people beyond our participating candidates, (our teachers, younger dancers and broader community), will also have opportunities to discover how dance is so inspiring and rewarding.

Margot Fonteyn was not only an exceptional artist and an international icon, she was also a lifelong learner who was extremely generous in sharing her passion for dance with others. Today’s dancers have not had the good fortune to see Fonteyn perform live but the lasting impressions of her incredible artistry and musicality are qualities left in my memory that I am keen for a new generation to discover.

Gerard Charles

‘We wish to give people viewing the dancers the opportunity to know them as individuals, artists and multifaceted performers’


It is therefore very much with her amazing abilities in mind that we shape the Fonteyn as not only a chance for the participants to share their talents but also as a chance to encourage them to explore their full potential as artists and people. Winning a Genée Gold Medal is definitely a highpoint for a few, but of much greater value to all who dance are the experiences of participating and being a part of something that is so much greater than yourself. For this year’s Fonteyn we are building a wide range of opportunities for our dancers to be able to explore movement, creativity and personal expression.

There is no one guaranteed path to success in this world and every successful ballet dancer has their unique story to share. As teachers it is our responsibility to provide all our students with a wide range of experiences and personal support, in addition to offering them the chance to perform and be seen. We wish to give artistic directors and others viewing the dancers the opportunity to know them as individuals, artists and multifaceted performers. It is our responsibility to encourage the true range of artistry that is the art of good dance and not simply exploit empty virtuosity.


Dame Beryl Grey, RAD Vice President and former ballerina, died on 10 December at the age of 95.

Beryl Grey joined Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet) in 1941 aged just 14. In 1957 she made history as the first British ballerina to guest with the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets, and in 1964 danced with the Peking Ballet. Later artistic director of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), her numerous honours included the RAD’s Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award in 1995.

For several years, Dame Beryl was also the Dance Gazette agony aunt, alongside David McAllister in a popular column called David and the Dame. She drew on her own matchless experience for advice that was notable for its compassion but also no-nonsense candour. Here are some highlights.

Beryl Grey in 1956. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL

My bored and badly-behaved pupils ruin the class for everyone.

If these children don’t want to learn and aren’t interested, then I don’t think they should continue. They shouldn’t be in a ballet class. It’s sacrilege. It should be like going into church – there should be respect, awe and discipline. When I was a little girl no one even considered disrupting a class. I think it’s been cheapened too much.

The teacher leading my school is strict and old-fashioned. Should she update her methods?

The young should be prepared to learn from older people. Youth is impatient, but I wouldn’t presume to tell an older person how to teach. As for her being strict – well, that’s no bad thing! Ballet is such a hard discipline, and it also requires tremendous self-discipline. Fashions may change, but fundamentally, teaching is a gift.

Beryl Grey with her husband Sven Svenson in 1966. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL

My daughter wants to take ballet classes – but will the work and criticism upset her?

When I was a child, I worked extremely hard – I went to very few parties! I didn’t have a fun life, but I wanted to do it more than anything. Quite frankly, a child has to learn how to take criticism. I’m from the old school, where you learned you have to take the rough with the smooth. 

I have started a relationship with a dancer in my company. Do love and work mix?

Loving relationships are very important to dancers. You bare your soul on stage, so you must have someone behind you. Dancers are highly emotionally charged – for them, it is all or nothing at all. Personally, I always kept my friendships outside the company – which was partly curiosity about the world outside, and about other art forms. 

My pupil longs for a professional career, but I am sure she will never be good enough. 

You cannot possibly tell at 14 whether someone is going to make it. I was only 14 when I joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, but my partner, David Paltenghi, didn’t start dancing at all until he was 19. Your doubts may act as a wonderful incentive – the girl may work even harder because it’s a challenge.

My promising student is held back by her father, who says ballet is a waste of time.

Families can be funny, and very unreasonable. This father must be handled very carefully – take a softly, softly approach. If you make him angry, he might even take it out on the girl. Men do still think of dance as an insecure profession – I suspect that at the back of their minds they imagine a dancer will only get on if she sleeps with someone.

‘Respect, awe and discipline’: Beryl Grey in 1964. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL
Beryl Grey with Gerald Ohn in 1964. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL

I teach my daughter – but now she wants another teacher. 

It is always difficult to let go of a talented pupil – especially if she is your own daughter – but it is vital. She wants to explore and learn; she is growing up and becoming her own person. Nurturing can become smothering: I’m keen that there is a break, and not too late. 

My students complain I’m picking on them when I correct them!

Dancers have to learn to take corrections. It can be very upsetting, but you can never see yourself as others do and without corrections you can slip into bad habits very easily. The teacher has to be completely honest. Being an artist isn’t a comfortable career – and it’s quite a lonely one, although wonderfully fulfilling. On stage, you’re all alone – you are baring your soul – so gather up all the advice and correction you can.

My teachers say I am talented – can I have a ballet career and a life?

If you have any doubts, you must give up a career in dance. To be a principal dancer is a wonderful privilege. I became a principal when I was 14, but I never thought that one gave up anything. If you want to get to the top, you don’t do everything that other people do. If you’re going to become, in a way, unique, there is a price to pay. Partying is a very empty life – it doesn’t lead anywhere at all, but everything you put into your training you get back a thousandfold.


Beryl Grey dancing Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Theatre


Art of the matter

In Fonteyn’s footsteps

Dance Gazette

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For the first time, the Bedells Bursary took place at RAD’s new, state-of-the-art London headquarters, in October last year. This was also the first competition to take place since 2019. 

British dancer Jakob Wheway, aged 15 was awarded the Bedells Bursary. Currently training at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, Wheway performed variations from Giselle (the Act 1 peasant pas de deux) plus Between the Lines, which he choreographed himself.

22 young dancers took part in this competition where candidates were judged on a non-syllabus ballet class, a classical variation and a variation choreographed by themselves. In recognition of the huge importance of nurturing and providing opportunities for creativity in young dancers, this year’s Choreographic Award was presented to British dancer Scott Milne, 16 (and trained by Karen Berry at Danscentre in Aberdeen) for his Dancer’s Own solo entitled Twilight. This award has been made possible by funding generously provided by the Lynn Wallis Bursary Fund.

Candidates were judged by Lynn Wallis (former Artistic Director of the RAD), David McAllister (RAD Vice-President and former Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet) and Anna-Rose O’Sullivan (Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet). O’Sullivan is one of many previous winners to perform with professional companies. Dancers from previous competitions have also gone on to dance with companies such as Dutch National Ballet and Estonian National Ballet, and other former winners include Errol Pickford, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sean Bates, Joseph Caley and Brandon Lawrence.

Jakob Wheway with Anna Rose O’Sullivan. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

Recognising young dancers’ excellence in artistic and technical achievement and providing opportunities for creativity, the bursary is named in honour of Phyllis Bedells, a founder member of the RAD. The bursary, supported by the Mary Kipps Bequest, offers £1,000 to be used to further the winner’s training. This year, dancers took part from countries including the UK, Malta, Canada, Hong Kong and Portugal.

Gerard Charles, Artistic Director of the RAD, said, ‘it is a joy to see our dancers gather from so many different places to learn together, to show what they have achieved and to see each other’s work. It is a good opportunity to celebrate their work and to recognise all the people that have helped them get to this point. We are always excited to see what their next steps may be.’

This year’s Bedells Bursary took place at the same time as the RAD’s Dance Challenge, a nationwide competition where dancers perform a solo choreographed by themselves. The winners were:

  • Overall winner of the Antoinette Sibley Scholarship for Levels 1 and 2: Erin Eastaugh, 12, trained by Karen Berry and Lorna Scott at Danscentre in Aberdeen
  • Jean Bedells Choreographic Award Level 1: Beatrix Chevalier Louis, 11, trained by Lorna Scott at Danscentre in Aberdeen
  • Jean Bedells Choreographic Award Level 2: Keira Hair, 16, trained by Lorna Scott at Danscentre in Aberdeen

All the young dancers taking part in both competitions enjoyed a weekend of performances and educational experiences at RAD headquarters, including a special masterclass led by former Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope.

Big Picture

Dame Beryl Grey

Dance Gazette

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The best advice I ever received One of the best pieces of advice I received was to focus on the process and not on the result. I know this is classic, perhaps a cliché, but it’s actually very good not to be obsessed by being successful; by being seen. This allowed me to focus on my training, to focus on what’s lacking, and to keep evolving and push myself outside my zone. I went further with my artistic career. 

Another piece of incredible advice I received was to trust my gut and instincts. People want to be normalised: maybe that is changing slowly, but at the time I was obsessed with being accepted and I’m very happy that I listened to my unique voice and understood that the way I move is my own. I think artists need to find the flow, find their way – and I think that the more different you are, the better you are seen in any room.

The advice I would pass on The advice I will give to the next generation is to stay curious and stay inspired by going to museums, theatres and movies. I think it’s the best way to refresh our vision about what’s already happening in the industry. There are a lot of things that repeat themselves, but I think there are many stories to be told and many stories to be believed. Go outside of your zone and discover what has not been touched yet.


Marie-Astrid Mence in a teaser for Oklahoma!


Inside RAD

Prize performances

Dance Gazette

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1 Pietermaritzburg by Felix Laband

This reminds me of Pietermaritzburg, one of those amazing places in South Africa. It is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

2 Neli Walking by Paul Hanmer

Paul Hanmer is a South African composer that I’ve been listening to since I was quite young and Neli Walking is from his album Trains To Taung.

3 Looking Back by Bob Holroyd

Looking Back is something we use to beef up our Tswana dance moves.

4 Loch Raven by Animal Collective

I really love Animal Collective, they’re an American experimental pop band.

5 Drumming by Steve Reich

This is number one at the moment. Epic singer and epic song.

Dada Masilo leads the cast in The Sacrifice at Dance Factory Johannesburg. Photo: John Hogg
‘I wanted to explore ritual,’ says Masilo about The Sacrifice. Photo: John Hogg
The Sacrifice. Photo: John Hogg


A trailer for Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice.

The Sacrifice tours the UK from 21 February–12 April. danceconsortium.com

Advice Bureau

Marie-Astrid Mence

Dance Gazette

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What do you remember from your first major journey – from South Africa to train in England?

I came to England when I was 14. In those days people mostly came by boat, so we sailed from Cape Town. I lived in Johannesburg, 1000 miles away from the Cape, so we took a train: the first time I’d ever been on a train. Lots of friends and relatives had come to see us off, I saw so many people in tears. And I felt so guilty because I was jumping up and down for joy. I was just so excited by the prospect of coming to London.

The first big international trip you took with the Royal Ballet was to the USA in 1960?

I turned 19 on the day we flew to America, and we did a five month tour of America. We started in New York for six weeks and then we went the length and breadth. There was a tremendous amount of one night stands – completely exhausting because you slept on the train and then had to get off at eight o’clock in the morning. We were expected to dress properly at all times: gloves and stockings with the seams straight up the back of the leg which we had to climb into in these little restrooms on the train.

Monica Mason as a harlot in Romeo and Juliet in 1965. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL

What was it like to travel during through a still segregated America?

I was reminded of South Africa, because it was like apartheid. A member of the orchestra – a violinist, a lovely guy – was Black. And he wasn’t allowed to play in the orchestra in the south. He wasn’t allowed to travel on the buses or eat with us. I remember writing home to my mother and saying, this is like being in South Africa, it’s horrible. Through the 1960s, we went many times, and it got worse, really, because there were the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. There is nothing like travelling for opening your eyes. And at the same time, we were dancing our socks off, night after night.

How was your first trip to Russia in the 1960s?

It couldn’t have been a greater contrast. Everything was so regimented and people had told us that we would be followed at all times. We were told that we had to keep our opinions to ourselves, not even share them in the rooms, because everything would be bugged, even the bathroom. I remember having somebody who didn’t even hide the fact that he was tailing us. It was such a shock to discover that people lived like this, and that they had so little. But the audiences were absolutely amazing, people with such knowledge of the art form. While we were there, Rudolf Nureyev was defecting to the west in Paris, but not a drop of news got out. It was only when we came back that we discovered what had happened.

Monica Mason in 1964. Photo: GBL Wilson/RAD/ArenaPAL

How did you persuade people to support the campaign for RAD’s new headquarters?

It was my belief in what the RAD gives the world – the importance of young people, understanding and appreciating dance, being well taught, being properly prepared for whatever their career will be. Dance influences them – the ability to communicate, to care deeply about something is so vital.

Why does dance matter to you?

The great thing about dance is that there is no language. It has  taken us to so many places where you can’t really communicate with people: our first tour to Japan, to China, the first time we went to Russia, and then Brazil and Cuba. It’s been such a privilege to be a part of an art form that doesn’t need language. That’s been the great thing, taking it all around the world and discovering that people everywhere seem to understand.

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. We hope these insightful personal conversations – hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette – will delight and inspire you. 

The fourth season of Why Dance Matters also includes conversations with choreographers Akram Khan and Charlotte Edmonds, and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Please do listen and subscribe.



Dada Masilo

Dance Gazette

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Congratulations on the new role! Having spent your career in the gymnastics world, why did you want to move into dance and the RAD?

I was a gymnast at an international level, and was then CEO of Gymnastics New South Wales (NSW) for 19 years. I was very passionate about the sport and its people. But there comes a time where you’re looking for new challenges. I looked at the Royal Academy of Dance – the values it espouses and the vision of the new CEO, Tim Arthur – and thought: this is an organisation going places, and one that I’d like to be a part of.

How did you discover gymnastics?

Our parents first put us in dance class: ballet, jazz and tap. Then my sister got into gymnastics and I thought, wow, I’d love to be able to do that. I lived in a country town where there weren’t many facilities available. So every Friday, from the age of 12, I jumped on the train to the state sports centre at Homebush. It took two and a half hours to get there, but I was really passionate about it. What I loved about gymnastics – and the same applies to dance – is that it’s all about getting the foundations right, because if you have the fundamentals in place, then the harder skills can follow. I’ve already had the privilege of attending a number of RAD awards programmes here, and can see the wonderful progression, which reminds me so much of where I came from. 

How daunting was it to be leading NSW at such a young age?

I was 26, and had graduated in law. The organisation was in a difficult place, possibly heading towards insolvency, with a lot of community distrust. But by the time I left, we had 19 years of consecutive surplus and even after covid, which was a hideous experience for everybody, our member satisfaction rating was at 92%, because members saw that we got behind them. 

How is morale among Australian dance teachers, coming out of the pandemic?

The lockdowns took a massive toll but I’ve been inspired by the stories of the dance schools who fully engaged in online classes and kept their students engaged. The state of Victoria supposedly experienced the longest continual lockdown in the world, but they have now held a couple of awards. Seeing the volunteers who run them connect and rejoice in their love of dance was inspiring. It will take time, but the human spirit is incredibly strong. 

What do members need from their organisation?

If you break it down to its most basic principles, they want customer service. They want communication and relevant products. Each of the regional panels I’ve met spoke incredibly highly of the products, the Faculty of Education programmes and the quality of the examinations.

I’m passionate about making sure that our communication is two-way. Rather than speaking at members, I want to hear and share their stories. The RAD teachers I’ve met are incredibly passionate about what they do. I’d like to work out how we as an organisation can help them to grow and be the best that we can all possibly be.

Dance, like gymnastics, has had to think hard about safeguarding. How was that process in your previous organisation?

In Australian gymnastics, each state is a separate jurisdiction, with a national body where we come together. I used that independence to get child protection and safeguarding on the agenda. As early as 2004, we rolled out an award-winning programme of member protection information officers, training each of our 220 clubs in how to manage child protection. We later underpinned that with a child protection strategy including education programmes which trained up the community to ensure they were empowered both with information and the ability to find further information if they needed it. We were first movers on all of these things, before they were on the agenda at the national level. It was a comprehensive approach, and I’m proud of it. 

How do you take members with you on that safeguarding journey?

It’s about having a conversation with them, so they fully understand why we’re doing this, the benefits to them and to their students and the community more broadly. All schools will see the benefits of ensuring the welfare of students. Ultimately, we are a community, and where schools aren’t doing the right thing, we as an organisation need to provide support and, if necessary, to act. Fundamentally, for me, child protection and safeguarding are non-negotiable, and I’d like to see more regulation in this area, including by the RAD at school level.

I think everybody wants to do the right thing, so I’m optimistic that the dance community here will come along for this journey.

Why Dance Matters

Monica Mason

Dance Gazette

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