On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100

Important update

The health and wellbeing of visitors and staff is our highest priority. In line with the latest advice from Public Health England on the COVID-19 outbreak, all V&A sites (South Kensington, V&A Museum of Childhood, Blythe House, V&A Dundee) are temporarily closed.

As a result, the opening date for On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 is currently under review. We can confirm that the display will go ahead and open to the public later in the year. We will let you know as soon as we have a confirmed date.

Further to that, the V&A Performance Festival will no longer be going ahead, which had the planned inclusion of the RAD Weekender.

The display

A display at the V&A museum in London, celebrating 100 years of the RAD, will tell the story of how it shaped the future of dance training, the famous faces who lead the way, and how it continues to bring the joy of dance to the lives of people across the world. The RAD is home to one of the largest dance collections in Europe, and this is the first time in its history it has given access to its archive on this scale.

Karsavina in Russian dance costume 1929. Dress by Gontcharova. Photographer unknown.The display will present costumes, designs, photographs and more from the RAD’s archive and the V&A’s Theatre & Performance Collection, exploring the RAD’s story from its foundation to its influence on ballet and dance internationally. It highlights the role of successive presidents, including Nureyev’s first performance in Britain in partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn.

Original ballet costumes and accessories worn by RAD founders and presidents will be on display, along with 60 original objects and over 80 supporting archival images. Other items include busts and sculptures, sketches and drawings, as well as letters, posters, programmes, audio-visual footage and some original photographs. 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 an 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. The performance floor, barres and mirrors are supplied by Harlequin Floors.
  • 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.

The display will open on 1 May 2020 and run until February 2021. Entry is free.

RAD Weekender

The opening of the display will coincide with the V&A’s annual Performance Festival (25 April – 3 May), which will celebrate dance in all its forms with a wide range of special events taking place throughout the museum. The programme of live performances, workshops and tours includes a special RAD Weekender from Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May.

Scroll down to see just a few of the objects on show in the display.

Other events

Celebrating Dame Margot Fonteyn with the Royal Academy of Dance

Celebrate the life of one of the most influential ballet dancers, in conjunction with the museum’s display with the Royal Academy of Dance.
More info and booking

Noma Dumezweni in Conversation

Join the award-winning actor for a discussion of her diverse career so far and her role as a mentor.
More info and booking

Step Into Dance Companies Performance

The Step Companies new work Echoes will be performed at the Victoria and Albert Museum along with site-specific preludes taking place across the museum.
More info to follow shortly.

The Grand Ball: Celebrating 100 years of Royal Academy of Dance

You are cordially invited to an immersive, interactive celebration of dance led by our master of ceremonies and accompanied by a ballerina who will open the festivities. Inspired by a Royal Academy of Dance ball held in 1939, ‘The Last Dance: Grand Fete Du Ballet’, you can get involved and dance away at this exciting ball in the grand surroundings of the V&A. The performance is choreographed and performed by Iona Brie (Step into Dance Create and Perform Company leader) and dancer, Alice Oakley-Jones (RAD alumni).

Join in on 2, 8, 9 and 16 May, 11.00, 13.00 and 15.00 (duration 30 minutes) on Level 0, John Madejski Garden, in fine weather. or Level 0, South Asia, Room 41 in wet weather.

Related events

1 May - 3 May '20
Centenary

RAD Weekender with the V&A

Duration
3 days
Find out more