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’


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.



The RAD was founded with the intent to improve the quality of dance teaching. It is therefore important for us all to understand what we mean by ‘quality teaching’, so we assembled a team of members, teachers and outside experts to debate this question. 

The answer was never going to be easy as there are so many different realities and points of view to take into account. As ‘good teaching ‘ or ‘excellent teaching’ do not define how teaching is conducted, ‘effective teaching’ was thought a better choice as it indicates the effect of the teaching discernible in the students. So what is effective teaching? After months of work and pages of well researched writing, I am happy to share that we distilled our thoughts down to this deceptively simple statement:

Effective teachers achieve positive outcomes for a full range of students through:

Knowledge, the personal experience and in-depth understanding of their craft
Communication, the ability to share their knowledge effectively
Passion, which drives them to learn about their subject which in turn inspires others to learn

These statements can apply to teachers of all levels, and all genres, but they must be put in context. There is a lot to unpack in each sentence!

‘Effective teachers achieve positive outcomes through knowledge, communication and passion’


We know that teaching is multi-faceted, and no one person will be effective to the same extent in every area. Think of this list as a set of aspirations to check in with every so often over the course of a teaching career. These attributes could be achieved by:

• Creating engaging classes and facilitating a holistic and joyful learning environment appropriate for all students.

• Encouraging and nurturing students to develop and embody individuality, musicality and artistry in movement.

• Embracing a secure and ever-deepening understanding of the syllabi and movement genre taught.

• Encouraging a positive environment of collaboration, self-reflection and ownership fed by mutual respect; inspiring and supporting students to take responsibility for their learning.

• Keeping all students engaged and inspired through secure communication and use of teaching strategies.

• Identifying and responding to the needs of a group and individual students.

• Having an understanding of ‘safe space’ and embracing safe practice in all aspects of work/class.

• Working with the acknowledgement that there are differing ways to acquire knowledge, and at differing paces, and that adaptability is an essential aspect of the successful sharing of information.

• Embracing life-long learning and with that the continued development of personal practice.

• Ensuring through feedback and feeding forward that students are aware of what they have achieved and are able to use information given to deepen and hone their personal skills and artistry.

• Acknowledging and embracing the evolution of the art form through the unique characteristic of each person, celebrating diversity and the way that people may differ.

This is definitely not the last word on all of this – but rather something that I hope will stimulate some healthy feedback as this is something that I believe is crucial for us to get right. I look forward to receiving your thoughts at



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.


As we age, all generations seem to reflect that things were different in their youth. Indeed the speed of technological advances has allowed our world to move much faster, but human achievement and creativity still need to work on a human time scale. Great ideas do not develop overnight nor can they be fully expressed in 280 characters.

Art encourages freedom to make choices, to bring ideas to the fore, to stimulate debate, to challenge and rechallenge and to present alternate views, providing options but not absolutes. This leads to creativity and progress, but can be uncomfortable and scares those who wish to control free thought. Sadly so much art has become co-opted for profit, and original works have become a commodity with skyrocketing prices and reduced accessibility.

As people we have become more conformist: you see the same fashion choices predominate on all continents, our personal expression dictated by what we are told we should look like. Even those who desire to show their individuality tend to follow the same worldwide trends of rebellion.

Coincidently, arts education is disappearing from mainstream schooling, whether in the name of priorities, financial restraint or puritanism, a range of intelligences are now missing opportunities to develop. As a result we produce students who can pass tests in narrow areas of expertise without being able to put that knowledge into context, to really question and develop the ability to think creatively, and to put what they have learnt into practice.

‘As teachers we must inspire the next generation onwards and remain creative. The rewards can be priceless’

Gerard Charles

We can celebrate that access to arts education has been helped by a rise in programmes in dance, music, visual arts and more, offered by large arts institutions. But for many these are also helpful profit centres to bolster the finances of the parent entity with healthy fee structures that can prove to be a barrier to access. Artistic integrity can also be subordinated by the need to attract and retain students.

Falling government support of arts institutions means that those institutions are ever more pre-occupied with the preservation of their organisation leaving less time and resources to deliver the art they are there to promote.

In order to preserve earned income safer artistic choices often have to be made. The charge that the arts should act more like a business is a scary one to me, who has for my entire life seen creative and affordable solutions grow from artistic necessity.

We all have it in our power to give space for the creative mind to develop, to set aside commercial concerns and reap the rewards of seeing an inspired young mind blossom. To not teach to the test but to teach the person to be the best that they can be, and to express themselves in their voice and not ours. The future of art is literally in our control. As teachers we must inspire the next generation and thus refresh ourselves as to our purpose and to remain creative. The rewards can be priceless.

Why Dance Matters

Kathryn Morgan

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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