News: The Royal Academy of Dance

Friday 4 February 2005

The Royal Academy of Dance is launching a new initiative to help counter the apparent dearth of British ballet dancers. Only two of the sixteen Royal Ballet Principals are British and English National Ballet has just two out of twelve.

The principal aim of The Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition is to provide encouragement and performance experience for young dancers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, between the ages of 10 and 13. RAD have identified this as the age when keen young ballet students lose interest. Dame Antoinette Sibley DBE, President of the Royal Academy of Dance felt that it is vital to give young dancers a ‘feel of the theatre’ that, she remembered herself, once experienced, fires the enthusiasm to pursue a career in dance. _*“This competition provides an age group often overlooked, (as they are no longer children but not yet young adults) with a rare opportunity to experience the thrill of performance and a taste of theatre for themselves.”* _

The Competition will be staged in alternate years starting in December 2005 with five regional heats and the final of the competition is to be staged at Easter in 2006, at a venue to be announced.

Renowned choreographer Gillian Lynne CBE has created four variations, two for males and two for females, exclusively for the competition. Although mostly known for her work in musical theatre, she says that a training in classical dance is an essential skill. *‘Since the years between the ages of 9 – 15 are crucial in the training of a dancer, I was overjoyed when the RAD asked me to take part in this Competition and create new pieces for it. I grew up as a classical dancer, I have loved it all my life and have tried to make dances that reflect that love but which add some of the humour and theatre skills that I have had to learn when making shows like ‘Cats’ and the various dance dramas I have created’*

In a well calculated move to appeal to their target group, permission has been secured to use extracts of John Williams music from – and inspired by – the motion pictures *Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone* and *Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban*..

The Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition is being run by The Royal Academy of Dance with the funding and support of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation and an additional contribution from the Musical Opera and Ballet Trust.

Background
The competition is for young dancers aged between10 and 13 years who are studying under a Royal Academy of Dance Registered teacher in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

There will be two levels for entry to the competition:

Level 1 – For students who have passed their RAD Grade 4 or 5 examination with over 60% and who are between the ages of 10 and 11 at the closing date.

Level 2 – For students who have passed their Intermediate Foundation or Intermediate examination with over 60% and who are between the ages of 12 and 13 at the closing date.

A series of Teachers’ Courses are scheduled around the country throughout July, August and September 2005 that Registered teachers will attend, watch and learn the variations in order to then teach them to their students.

Gillian Lynne’s teaching assistant Phyllida Crowley Smith will conduct the courses and all four variations have also been recorded and the video will be available as a teaching aid in September 2005.

Each year, Academy trained teachers offer over 250,000 children worldwide the opportunity to learn and enjoy ballet. This new competition seeks to secure the long-term future of ballet in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland by providing young dancers with exciting, opportunities to display their talents, to hone their skills and to experience the thrill of live performance.

Regional Heats will be held in: • London and Middlesex • Midlands & East England • Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland • South East England • South West and Wales (including Channel Islands)

More information will be available on www.youndancers.org

Press
Times, 3 Feb

‘There is more to ballet dancers than perfectionism, very straight hair and contempt for clumsy people. The discipline of ballet teaches skills beyond how to walk prissily and wear a leotard with little or no embarrassment. It teaches flexibility.’ Times Leader, 3 Feb

‘[Dame Antoinette Sibley] quoted what she called “shocking” figures from the Royal Academy of Dance showing a 67% drop-out rate of students at age 10-11.
Is this really so surprising? After all, this is the age for dancers when the hard work really kicks in, and clothes and boys start to seem more appealing to many girls than pliés and pointe work. Not to mention that the stick-thin physique that dancers strive for is often thwarted by the development of womanly curves.’ Guardian, 10 Feb.05

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