8 March 2024 09:00

Women blazing a trail

A great many people have played a part in the history of the RAD, but it’s the names of some of the most inspirational women from our past that still resonate. The names of Genée, Karsavina, Bedell’s and Cormani ring out from our very foundation, and others such as de Valois, Fonteyn, Sibley and Bussell shaped the organisation as it grew into the world leader that it is today.

To coincide with International Womens Day 2024  we take brief look at just a few of the hugely influential women from the history of the RAD in the UK and NZ.

Dame Adeline Genée

The famously enchanting Danish ballerina was co-founder and first President of the RAD. She gave her name to the Academy’s flagship competition, first held in 1931.

Tamara Karsavina

Diaghilev’s star ballerina – famously, she was the first Firebird – was a founder of the RAD. The Russian dancer also devised a landmark syllabus for the Academy.

Phyllis Bedells

A co-founder of the RAD in 1920, for whom its longstanding bursary competition is named. Born in Bristol, she was the first British prima ballerina of the Empire Ballet.

Lucia Cormani

A pupil at La Scala ballet school in Milan, Cormani came to London in 1886 to dance at the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square and became a co-founder of  The Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain which later became the RAD. She was a popular mime artist whose tall, muscular build often saw her play roles en travestie (dressed as a man).

Dame Margot Fonteyn

The matchless ballerina – beloved across the world – was RAD President from 1954–91.

Dame Ninette de Valois

No one did more than the Irish-born director to establish British ballet, founding what became the Royal Ballet. She was the first recipient of the RAD’s prestigious QEII Award.

Dame Antoinette Sibley

The British ballerina who created iconic roles like Manon and Titania was RAD President from 1991–2012.

Lynn Wallis

As the RAD’s former Artistic Director, she led a transforming renewal of the syllabi and an expansion of the Genée to include original work.

Dame Darcey Bussell

A star of the Royal Ballet and former judge of Strictly Come Dancing, the British ballerina has been President of the RAD since 2012.

Jeane Horne

Jeane was responsible for establishing the Royal Academy’s work in New Zealand.  Jeane’s lasting legacy was to inspire and mentor a generation of teachers who continued to teach, promote and encourage the RAD syllabi in New Zealand.