Royal Academy of Dance gives unprecedented access to its archives for the first time at the V&A to celebrate 100 years

Ballet exercises for athletes (c) Ali Wright, Dance Gazette

The Royal Academy of Dance has partnered with the V&A to co-curate a free to enter display to celebrate its centenary. This is the largest display by the RAD in its history.

  • The display will tell the story of the RAD; how the Academy transformed dance education in the UK and internationally, working with dance legends such as Margot FonteynRudolf Nureyev and Tamara Karsavina to make dance history.
  • Over 60 original objects and over 80 archival images – many of which have not been publicly displayed before – will take visitors behind the curtain and into the dance studio of one of the world’s greatest dance education organisations.
  • Designed to inspire the next generation of dancers, of all ages and abilities, a ballet barre area in the display will allow visitors to try some ballet movements themselves.
  • RAD will present a series of events at the V&A as part of an RAD Weekender (Friday 1- Sunday 3 May 2020). Highlights include a 1920s speakeasya pointe shoe making demonstration with Freed of London, and pop up performances by RAD students showing different dance styles including ballet, street dance and musical theatre.
  • The display opens to the public in the museum’s Theatre and Performance Gallery on 1 May 2020 and runs until February 2021. For more information visit
Stanislas Idzikowski teaching 5th year RAD scholars at Holland Park Avenue in 1952. Crown copyright
Stanislas Idzikowski teaching 5th year RAD scholars at Holland Park Avenue in 1952. Crown copyright

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) has partnered with the V&A to co-curate a free to enter display in celebration of the iconic dance education organisation’s centenary. On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100, opening 1 May 2020, will tell the story of how the RAD shaped the future of dance training, the famous faces who lead the way, and how the RAD continues to bring the joy of dance to the lives of people across the world. Home to one of the largest dance collections in Europe, this is the first time that RAD has given access to its archive on this scale in its history.

On Point is structured in three sections, housing over 60 original objects and over 80 archival images. The display draws on items and footage from both the RAD’s and V&A’s archives, including many objects that have not been publicly displayed before. Alongside items relating to activities at the heart of RAD’s work, such as teacher training and ballet syllabi, the display will also bring visitors closer to some of ballet’s most famous faces. The RAD has always had a strong line to the dance profession and has played a pivotal role in the careers of many prominent dance figures, from Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, to Robert Helpmann (The Red Shoes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)  and John Cranko (The Prince of the Pagodas), some of whom will be celebrated in this display.

Silver Swans Class at Hartley House Dance Club, Plymouth, April 2018. Photo by Matt Round.
Silver Swans Class at Hartley House Dance Club, Plymouth, April 2018. Photo by Matt Round.

Highlights include:

  • Ballet Exercises for Athletes – A unique pamphlet with original artwork by Punch illustrator Fougasse, famed for his ‘Careless talk Costs Lives’ WW2 posters. In 1954, the RAD was approached by a training club for British high jumpers who were seeking ways to increase their elevation. They wondered if ballet exercises would be beneficial to the training of athletes and, following a pilot in 1956, a series of exercises were created, based on ballet, but adapted to athletic needs.
  • Rudolf Nureyev’s Swan Lake costume – This tunic, designed by Carl Toms in 1963 for a production of Swan Lake by The Royal Ballet, was worn by Nureyev when he was at the height of his career. Nureyev’s first performance in Britain was at a RAD fundraising gala in 1961. He was invited to perform by Dame Margot Fonteyn, the RAD’s longest-serving President, laying the foundation for their famed partnership. This set in motion one of the most exciting chapters in dance history, with Fonteyn and Nureyev still regarded as two of the best dancers to have ever graced the stage.
  • Dame Darcey Bussell’s costume from Prince of the Pagodas – After the premiere of this ballet by Kenneth MacMillan, Darcey Bussell became Principal at The Royal Ballet at the age of just 20 years old. Darcey has been President of the RAD since 2012, and has a key role in supporting the Academy carry out its work.
  • Ballet barre area- Proving that everybody can dance, there will be an opportunity for visitors to dust off their dancing shoes with a participatory barre area in the display. Complete with mirrors and a demonstrative video, visitors are encouraged to try some exercises from RAD’s ballet syllabus.
  • Harlequin by Alfred Gilbert – Made by the sculptor of Eros at Piccadilly, this figure of Harlequin was given by Stanislas Idzikowski to the RAD ‘Production Club’. Established in the early 1930s, the Production Club aimed to provide a link between the students of the RAD and the dance profession. It also mounted performances of original choreography and is credited for offering famed choreographers Robert Helpmann and John Cranko their first opportunities in the industry.
Harlequin Statue. Credit Dance Gazette - Ali Wright
Harlequin Statue. Credit Dance Gazette – Ali Wright

As one of the world’s leading dance education and training organisations, over 250,000 people globally take ballet exams with the RAD each year. Supported by 13,000 members in 89 countries, the Academy offers opportunities for people of all ages and abilities the chance to learn to dance. In addition to exploring key moments in dance history, this display will show how the RAD aims to bring dance to the lives of people around the world; from the work of RAD teachers who deliver dance training across the globe, to new initiatives such as Silver Swans® for over 55s and Project B, a programme designed to widen access for boys to dance.

RAD Weekender Friday 1- Sunday 3 May

The RAD will also inspire dancers of all ages to put their best foot forward through a range of interactive events and activities planned alongside the display. Whatever your experience, this is your chance to get a taste of dance with the RAD in one of London’s most iconic venues.

Step Into Dance’s Camden Spring Sharing 2018 at Regent High School
Step Into Dance’s Camden Spring Sharing 2018 at Regent High School

The opening of On Point will coincide with the V&A’s annual Performance Festival, which includes a RAD Weekender from Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May, providing ample opportunity for everyone to get moving themselves, or investigate some of the stories from RAD’s history a little deeper. The activities planned during the weekend include:

  • Celebrate the 1920s, when the RAD was founded, with a social dance class by Swing Patrol and live music from Mississippi Swing Three (‘the biggest little swing band in town’). There will also be a chance to make your own 1920s-inspired headpiece, all while sipping on a prohibition cocktail!
  • Pointe shoemaking demonstration with Freed of London. Get a unique, behind-the-scenes experience and learn more about the art of pointe shoemaking.
  • Immerse yourself in dance, whatever your age, with participatory performances for families, showcases by RAD students and Silver Swans ballet demonstrations.
  • Relax in the V&A’s café with live musical accompaniment by a pianist from the Royal Academy of Dance.
  • For those looking to delve into history a little deeper, there will also be talks and guided tours of the exhibition by the curators.

Additional events and activities will also be scheduled for later in the year.