Sign of a star
Vitória Bueno, an RAD-trained ballerina from Brazil, won hearts and minds on NBC’s new show America’s Got Talent: All-Stars.
Now 18, the Brazilian ballerina performed for audiences and a panel of judges. After watching her dance, the often fearsome Simon Cowell said, ‘I believe the sign of a star is someone who perseveres and then lights up the stage – you have both of those things. You have this glow about you – we were mesmerised.’
Bueno was born with phocomelia, a rare genetic condition that can cause babies to be born without limbs, and her passion for ballet blossomed after her physiotherapist advised her to try it at the age of five. She studied at the Academia Ândrea Falsarella in her hometown of Santa Rita Do Sapucai in the state of Minas Gerais – Falsarella and her colleagues are RAD teachers.
The RAD examiner Pamela Richardson described visiting Brazil to assess Bueno and her fellow candidates. ‘I had no idea what an amazing heart-warming experience I was about to have,’ she wrote in 2018. ‘I was immediately struck by Vitória’s smile, beaming eyes, beautiful physique and obvious happiness. She showed from the beginning perfect posture, weight placement and control, and I must add very correct timing and musicality.’ Even the port de bras ‘was shown with such good use of head and eye-line that I could “see” her “invisible arms”.’ Richardson added that Bueno displayed ‘an inner light that shone through the whole exam showing her love of dance. When the girls left the studio, I must admit that my tears just streamed down my face! I felt privileged to have had this experience, humble at the pure joy she expressed in her dancing, and full of admiration not only for her, but for her colleagues who behaved so kindly and naturally with her, her teachers who had taught her so much with care and attention and her parents and family who obviously supported her dreams.’
In 2021, Bueno won second place on Das Supertalent (Germany’s Got Talent), and came third in her semi-final on the recent American show. She often shares dance on her Instagram account, which has grown to over 450,000 followers. ‘For me, arms, they’re just a detail,’ Bueno has said. ‘I follow with my eyes, as if they were there.’ And she believes that ‘we are more than our disabilities, so we have to chase our dreams.’
Vitória Bueno on America’s Got Talent
Lyn Fitzsimons was the first RAD teacher to become a Silver Swans Licensee in Australia. She shares the impact of her work with this landmark programme teaching ballet to older adults.
I recently returned to Scotland due to the pandemic and have happily re-settled with my family in Edinburgh. But before that I was honoured to teach many Silver Swans classes in my eight years in Australia and to be the first in Australia to qualify for the license, travelling to Nevada, USA to attain the accreditation.
It was incredibly humbling to be in many regional editorial publications regarding my classes in the state of Queensland, including interviews for Sydney Radio to promote and encourage the Silver Swans, which I found extremely rewarding. I was also very humbled to be asked by Queensland Ballet to be part of a two-year research campaign on the health and physical benefits of ballet for older adults.
One lady, called Lorna, was 78 years old when this photo was taken. For four years she attended two of my Silver Swans classes each week, and her elegance and grace were breathtaking. Before Silver Swans, she had never danced in her life – and she said, it changed her life and that she felt indebted to the RAD. She described the Silver Swans as the silver lining to her life.
It is my pleasure to continue to be a proud ambassador of the Silver Swans and the RAD. I wear it like a badge of honour across my chest.
Lyn and her class on Queensland’s Channel 7 news
A good eye
The British dancer Jimmy Parratt explains how the skills from his RAD training helped him pivot from performance to photography.
I started dancing at around three years old. My mum was an RAD ballet teacher (she has recently retired), so I went along with her to work in Lewisham, London, and ended up just joining in. One thing led to another! I progressed through all of my RAD examinations and ended up going to Central School of Ballet at 16.
I did the Genée [the RAD’s Genée International Ballet Competition] in Antwerp and got to the final – it was a lovely experience, a really friendly environment. Everyone, competitor or staff, is engaged with you personally.
It was very much by luck that I stumbled across photography. In 2019, I was dancing with the National Ballet of Ireland in Dublin and assisting with their social media whilst on tour. So in rehearsals or in the middle of a show I would grab my phone at the side of stage and take a couple of photos. People said I had a good eye for it, so I promised myself that if I got another job soon after this one, I’d buy myself a camera and lens. I ended up performing with Alina Cojocaru at Sadler’s Wells, and then through covid I ended up training myself – I’m completely self-taught.
There are definitely transferable skills from dance. My speciality is dance photography, so if I’m photographing some repertoire, I probably already know the moments I want to photograph. If I’m watching a rehearsal for a piece that I don’t know, I’ll learn the choreography in my head and end up knowing what moments to prioritise or where to angle myself. For instance, a low angle will always make the leg line longer. As a dancer with short legs, I would have loved a photographer to make my legs look longer!
At the moment, I say I’m semi-retired as a dancer. Photography is slowly taking over. It was definitely sped up by covid – I did have contracts lined up with a few companies, but it was one cancellation after the other. As a freelancer that was very detrimental.
The end to a dancing career is always going to come, so finding those transferable skills is extremely important, whether in the arts or the more mainstream ‘muggle’ world. We are extremely good at taking direction but also extremely good at being able to direct ourselves. These are business skills that are key to the workplace. We’ve been working from day one, as kids, motivating and disciplining ourselves to push for as close to perfection as we can get.
I’ve always loved line and artistry and – with huge amounts of luck – it’s all fallen into place. The RAD training gave me my cleanliness and tidiness as a dancer. It gave me an extremely strong base to pursue a professional career as a dancer and continuing as a photographer. I definitely have to thank the RAD for that.
In Athens, RAD teacher Effie Sotira celebrates an adult student’s remarkable achievement.
I am a registered RAD teacher based in Athens, Greece. I am proud to announce that my dear student Phoebe Legakis, aged 50, has passed the Intermediate exam with Merit!
Phoebe started ballet training for the first time in her life six years ago and I have been tutoring her since 2018. She is a strongly motivated person with incredible will power. In class she works really hard to improve despite her physical boundaries and she is excellent in picking up the corrections that I give her.
From the moment that we set the goal of passing the exam, we designed a programme of training together. It consisted of gym exercises and stretching in order to strengthen specific muscle groups, devoting endless care and concern to prevent the body from any injury and added stress.
We are very proud of one another – and especially for Phoebe’s achievement – and we are ready to move on to the next level. As the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way!’ – and the way must be a carefully planned management of the body and the mind that in Phoebe’s case allowed her to push her limits gently, to remain focused and to emerge from the process as a nurtured, happy person. Congratulations to Phoebe!
RAD Members’ Day
On 23 April, we are bringing together the RAD global community for a Members’ Day with a chance to attend in-person or online. You can expect a vibrant day of opportunities to network, participate in practical sessions and be part of inspirational conversations. Further information including a full schedule will be released shortly.