Royal Academy of Dance drives to attract more male dancers

Royal Academy of Dance

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) launched Project B – a range of initiatives to widen access to dance for boys and encourage more to take up ballet.

In celebration of its upcoming centenary in 2020, the RAD aims to bring dance to more people in more places and will be initially investing over £30,000 to further support male dance provision over the next three years.

Project B launches has 4 key strands:

  • B: Active
  • B: Inspired
  • B: Involved
  • B: Engaged

B: Active
Following a successful collaboration as part of The Patron’s Lunch last year, the RAD is again partnering with fellow Patron’s Organisation Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to launch a six week pilot scheme in primary schools.

The project  aims to promote the strong connection between dance and sport, and challenge traditional stereotypes of both cricketers and dancers.

The pilot will comprise of a series of workshops to be held in primary schools within two miles of Lord’s Cricket Ground in St. John’s Wood. Classes will be delivered by both an RAD Registered Teacher and a MCC coach.

Focusing on strength, stamina, balance and fitness and the links between sport and dance, this project hopes to encourage more boys to learn ballet and more girls to try cricket.

Royal Ballet Principal Dancer and cricket enthusiast, Alexander Campbell, has been named as the RAD’s Ambassador for the project:

“As a passionate supporter of both ballet and cricket, it is with great excitement that I am to be involved as an Ambassador for the project. Cricket and ballet were a huge part of my life growing up, and continue to be a huge part of my life today. They are fun and engaging at all levels, and I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to introduce children to my favourite art-form, as well as my favourite sport.”

B: Inspired
In a bid to inspire a boys ballet boom, RAD Male Dance Ambassador, Iain Mackay, has created choreography that will challenge stereotypes surrounding male dance, and ballet in particular, and celebrate boys who dare to dance.

The choreography, which is simple, fun and suitable for all ages and abilities, will be free to download via the smartphone app Seenit. From 18 June (Father’s Day) users will be encouraged to use video to document their dance journey.

Iain’s choreography draws on his experience as a dancer, teacher and father. Based on terms and references from popular culture, it will get boys busting ballet moves in a language they can relate to:

“The inspiration for my choreography comes from all the boys I have taught with the RAD. I’ve looked at ways of bringing what young boys interested in ballet can take from their passions outside of the studio and use it to give them confidence and a common language. This inspires them to develop inside the parameters of a ballet class. Whether that be developing their favourite footballer’s elaborate goal celebration, jumping and posing like super heroes, spinning across the room like Angry Birds, or creating patterns and shapes like building blocks in Minecraft. Regardless of the inspiration, the result is the same: a strong, well held upper body and grace and strength in abundance – what every male dancer represents. I hope the choreography I have created will motivate and excite aspiring male dancers to get involved and enjoy the athleticism and physicality that ballet holds.”

B: Involved
To date, the RAD has seen an increase of over 20% in the numbers taking part in its boys’ ballet activities in the UK in the last year. However, only 1.8 per cent of all global RAD exam candidates are male – the proportion rises to around 4-6 per cent at the higher vocational graded levels. By investing over £30,000 over three years, the RAD will further its commitment to male dance. It will reach boys at a grass roots level by providing more Boys Only! workshops and Boys Ballet Masterclasses throughout the UK, as well as providing additional bursaries and financial support to ensure that, regardless of geography or financial situation, a diverse range of boys have the chance to participate.

B: Engaged
As a membership organisation, the RAD recognises the importance of building capacity in the sector by helping dance teachers to reach out to male students and to encourage more men to pursue dance teaching. As part of their investment plans, the RAD will provide financial support to male students enrolling on RAD teacher training programmes in a drive to recruit more male dance teachers and increase the number of positive male role models.  Iain’s choreography and ethos towards teaching boys will also be used as a basis for developing new Continuing Professional Development courses, in collaboration with RAD’s Artistic Director Paula Hunt. These CPD courses will be provided free of charge to RAD Registered Teachers to support them in engaging more male students in their dance schools nationwide.

Take up the challenge to ‘be part of Project B’.

Meet the ambassadors: 

Iain Mackay
Born in Glasgow, Iain Mackay trained as a Junior Associate of Scottish Ballet, before joining the Dance School of Scotland. He spent two years at the Royal Ballet Upper School, and joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1999 following his success at the RAD’s Genée International Ballet Competition where he won a bronze medal. He was promoted to Soloist in 2001 and Principal in 2003. Able to take on everything from classical princes to intense dramatic roles, Iain became one of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s most valued and versatile artists, leading to the creation of a number of major roles in the recent repertory.

Alexander Campbell
Australian dancer Alexander Campbell is a Principal of The Royal Ballet. He trained at The Royal Ballet School and on graduation joined Birmingham Royal Ballet. He joined The Royal Ballet as a Soloist in 2011, was promoted to First Soloist in 2012 and Principal in 2016. Campbell was born in Sydney and trained at Academy Ballet, Sydney, before joining The Royal Ballet School. In 2003 he won the silver medal at the RAD’s Genée International Ballet Competition and was a Prix de Lausanne finalist.