Royal Academy of Dance: Celebrating 100 Years
Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd
ISBN 978-1785512179, hardback, 2 December 2019, £35
Available from: www.radenterprises.co.uk/radcelebrating100years
The RAD is nowadays such a major international force that it seems improbable it is only now reaching its century. It began life as a campaign in the pages of Dancing Times, fronted by the founding editor, Philip Richardson (who became the first general secretary) and ballet teacher Edouard Espinosa, following a meeting between them, in 1912. Dancing Times published Espinosa’s Technical Dictionary of Dancing in the following year, including a photo of the insouciant author with a lighted cigarette held in the corner of his mouth! The following years were, of course, the time of the Great War and inevitably concerted action to improve the quality of dance teaching was stalled until after the Armistice. Finally, in July 1920, a grand dinner at London’s Trocadero Restaurant brought 30 dancers and dance teachers together and the action to produce an elementary dance syllabus was agreed. On New Year’s Eve of that year, more than 100 dance teachers attended a meeting in Regent Street to approve the syllabus and establish the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain.
So, although the book jumps the gun in a formal sense, published before the RAD’s centennial year has begun, it covers a longer period including the eight years’ of the organisation’s gestation. It is full of gorgeous photos (someone has done a great job in curating them) including fascinating images of Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Adeline Genée and Lucia Cormani, one of the Association’s founder members – the first examinations were held in her studio near Goodge Street underground station. There is also a photo of Espinosa holding Phyllis Bedells in a staged still from The Dancing Master, which looks as if it was taken yesterday.
The book is structured in two parts: firstly arranged chronologically in four chapters, following a fascinating brief introduction by dance critic, Gerald Dowler; and then thematically covering such key issues as syllabi and examinations; teacher education; galas, competitions and awards; and widening participation in dance. However, the emphasis on now and the future is ever-present, especially in the photographs of current students that appear regularly throughout the text: a photo of Jessica Templeton from 2018 facing one of Anna Pavlova from 1910 is just one of many examples of the past fusing into the present. The stability of the RAD is perhaps best illustrated by the simple fact that it has only had four presidents in one hundred years: Adeline Genée (1920-54); Margot Fonteyn (1954-91); Antoinette Sibley (1991-2012) and, since 2012, Darcey Bussell who, together with vice-president, Li Cunxin (artistic director of Queensland Ballet), has written the book’s foreword.
At 176 pages, the book is a good size for both coffee table and bedside, but also small enough to be carried on a journey. It is not text-heavy and is full of stunning images. The high-value professional production by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, edited by Johanna Stephenson, includes a helpful index (so many books omit this, these days) and a fascinating “Where are they now?” section which identifies many past and present stars of the ballet who began their dance careers as RAD students.
This attractively-designed book is reasonably priced at £35 (plus post and packing) and available direct from RAD
For more information on the RAD and its centenary celebrations see www.royalacademyofdance.org/about-us/rad100/