A Brief History

History of the RAD Overseas Scholarship, 14+ Dance Scholarship Foundation, Alexander Grant Training Award, Elvira Macrae Award, Creina Gee Memorial Award

In 1941, a young Rowena Jackson won the first Royal Academy of Dancing Overseas Scholarship, although she then had to wait till the war was over in Europe before taking it up.  Rowena went on to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet and won Gold in the prestigious Genée Awards in 1947 along with fellow New Zealander Bryan Ashbridge, who won the Male Gold Medal.

From 1941, New Zealand awarded a biennial overseas scholarship to enable a New Zealand student to undertake a year’s tuition at an overseas training school.  From 1995 until 2002 the scholarship was awarded annually, and winners have been able to use the scholarship for further full-time training either in New Zealand or overseas.  Subsequent winners of the NZ Scholarship have contributed equally significantly not only to ballet but to furthering the aims of the Royal Academy of Dance in New Zealand.  They include, Alexander Grant, Mary-Jane O’Reilly, Sherilyn Kennedy, Kerry Anne Gilberd, Cora Kroese, Abigail Boyle and Katie Hurst-Saxton.

By 2002, it was no longer considered necessary to travel ‘overseas’ to train for a professional career in dance, nor was it appropriate for the Academy – by now a global organisation – to fund scholarships in the ‘old commonwealth’ countries and not in others.  This inspired Shirley Baker, then National Administrator for the Royal Academy of Dance in New Zealand (1984-2004), to establish a scholarship fund to support ‘young dancers of outstanding ability and potential’. The 14+ Dance Scholarship Foundation was set up in 2004, whereby 14 donors would each contribute $2,500 over a 10-year period to enable scholarships to be offered from 2004-2013.  More than 14 people gave – hence the name!

Anne Rowse, former dance teacher, Director of the New Zealand School of Dance, and Australian representative on the Academy’s Executive Committee, was invited to be the patron.  Founding trustees were: New Zealand RAD Administrator, Janet Taylor; RAD teachers and examiners, Carole Speirs and Deirdre Tarrant; RAD teacher, Carl Myers and retired National Administrator, Shirley Baker.

Since its inception, more donors have come on board and generous individual donations have enabled further scholarships to be added.  In 2006, the awards were expanded to include an award in the memory of the great NZ dancer, Alexander Grant; in 2007, a donation by the family of former RAD teacher, Creina Gee, established the Creina Gee Memorial Award to provided financial assistance to teachers and trainee teachers undertaking study; and a further donation by former RAD teacher Elvira Macrae established the Elvira Macrae Award in 2014.

Over the years, scholarship winners have gone on to prominence and to be highly sought after in the dance world: Karen Nanasca, Scholarship winner 2004, is a soloist with The Australian Ballet; Harrison James, Scholarship winner 2006, is a principal with The National Ballet of Canada; Rhiannon Fairless, Alexander Grant Award winner 2008, has joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet after 4 years with the National Ballet of Canada; Ariana Hond, Alexander Grant Award winner 2010, is a company artist with Queensland Ballet; Libby-Rose Niederer, Scholarship winner 2014, is a company artist with Queensland Ballet; Katherine Sonnekus, Elvira Macrae Award winner 2014, is with the Australian Ballet; Lily Maskery, Scholarship winner 2016, is in her 2nd year with the Australian Ballet School; Caitlin Hickey, Alexander Grant Award winner 2016, is in her 2nd year with the English National Ballet School.

In a letter to the RAD for the inauguration of the Foundation, Alexander Grant wrote – “I wish the Foundation and future scholarship winners every success.  I owe my long career in the dance world to the Royal Academy of dance scholarship as the second New Zealand winner of this award.”  Harrison James, Scholarship winner 2006 and principal with The National Ballet of Canada, echoed these sentiments when he wrote to the New Zealand office in 2018: “I believe the RAD 14+ Dance Scholarship in 2006, was a HUGE catalyst for me in deciding to attend the New Zealand School of Dance…  I have often wondered how my life might have differed had I delayed my training.”

Without doubt, the 14+ Dance Scholarship has had a profoundly positive impact on furthering ballet in New Zealand and internationally.