16 May 2024 12:04

Royal Academy of Dance announces honorary fellowships to three transformative figures in dance teaching

Margaret Graham Hills, Virginia Parkinson and Paula Hunt are recipients of the RAD’s highest award to dance teachers. 

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is delighted to announce that Margaret Graham Hills, Virginia Parkinson and Paula Hunt have each received the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Dance (FRAD). 

This esteemed fellowship is the highest award that the RAD awards to its teachers and is in recognition of outstanding contribution to the art of dance or service to the RAD and its community. Margaret Graham Hills, Virginia Parkinson and Paula Hunt were each nominated and subsequently awarded the fellowship for their years of service to the RAD, in which they inspired generations of dancers and had a transformative impact on the global dance community. They received their awards during a ceremony at RAD’s Members’ Day at the end of April this year.  

On receiving the award Margaret Graham Hills said: "I have worked within the scope of the RAD from the age of 5 to now (at 95) and I am overwhelmed by this honour! It’s such a joy for me, as one of the originators of the 1957 RAD six-year course of study that was used for thirty years. I’m thinking now of the many students who, like me, have continued being inspired by the work of those dancers who came before us and those who will continue the great RAD tradition."

Margaret Graham Hills ARAD FRAD began dancing at the age of three. Her professional training was with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) in London, under the guidance of Ninette de Valois and Margaret Crashe (Cecchetti Method), Ruth French (RAD method), Lydia Kyasht (Russian method), Vera Volkova & George Goncharov (Vaganova method), Tamara Karsavina and Ursula Moreton (ballet pantomime). After performing with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, she was appointed Senior Ballet Mistress of the Royal Ballet School; at this time, she assisted Dame Ninette de Valois in compiling a syllabus of ballet training for the Royal Ballet School.  

Among the many dancers whom Margaret has taught are Anthony Dowell, Antoinette Sibley and Georgia Parkinson. Moving to the US in 1971, Margaret continued to inspire and teach dancers, becoming Adjunct Professor of Ballet, and teaching advanced classes at the Stanley Holden Dance Center in West Los Angeles, where she held the role of principal.  

Virginia Parkinson said: “I am really honoured to be given a Fellowship Award of the RAD. It was especially pleasing to be given this at an in-person ceremony in the presence of so many members of the RAD, both students and teachers. Following the announcement of my fellowship I was touched to receive numerous messages from former students stating that I had had a beneficial impact and influence during their time at the RAD under my tutelage. I have always had a great deal of respect for the RAD, a truly professional worldwide organisation that has been instrumental in guiding and supporting me as a student and teacher throughout my career.”

Virginia Parkinson FRAD was born in Canada and from the age of ten studied ballet in London, Ontario with Bernice Harper, an RAD examiner. She then studied in London, UK at the RAD Teacher’s Training course, under Keith Lester and Kathleen Gordon, graduating in 1970. In 1971, she founded her own school and whilst running this she joined the staff at the RAD Teacher’s Training Course teaching ballet and later, supply teaching for Karsavina classes.  

Virginia’s other teaching engagements have included teaching character at the Royal Ballet School Teacher’s Course (formerly known as the Craftsman’s Course), The Rambert Ballet Academy Twickenham, under Gary Sherwood, and Elmhurst Ballet School. She also taught ballet at Penny Park’s School for forty years. Presently Virginia is teaching Karsavina classes to the BA (Hons) Ballet Education students at the RAD and is part of the team overseeing the Karsavina Heritage Award Programme. 

Paula Hunt ARAD MNZM FRAD is a dance educator, tutor and examiner for the RAD. Paula attained the RAD’s Solo Seal and was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Arts Council Bursary to further her training. She then directed the Paula Hunt Dance Studio for the last 40 years. 

For recognition of her status as one of New Zealand’s most successful and celebrated dance educators, Paula was appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit, by Her Majesty the Queen. 

As Chair of the international panel of examiners of the RAD, Paula was responsible for the development of examination content, standards, marking systems, training new examiners and leading the international panel of more than 200 Examiners. As Head of Syllabus Development Paula was involved in the new syllabus development from Pre-Primary to Solo Seal. Paula contributed on many levels including choreography, trialling, production of the DVD’s and launches of the syllabus content. Through 2018 and 2019 Paula was the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Dance and currently works as a Consultant to the Panel of Examiners. 

“Commenting on the exciting news, RAD’s Artistic Director Alexander Campbell said: On behalf of the RAD, I send my warmest congratulations to Margaret, Virginia and Paula on each receiving this prestigious award. They have made a remarkable impact on the world of dance teaching and have inspired countless dancers around the globe. We are incredibly proud of Margaret, Virginia and Paula’s successes. They truly embody what it is to be an RAD teacher.” 

FRAD nominations may be made by anyone, including parents and students who may best know their teacher’s work. On receiving the award, the person may use the title Fellow of the Royal Academy of Dance and may use after their name the initial letters ‘FRAD’.