Karsavina Project

As part of the RAD’s commitment to sustaining knowledge for its dance teaching communities, the Faculty of Education is committed to archiving the heritage in ballet pedagogy of Tamara Karsavina (1885 – 1978), one of the founding members of the RAD. Karsavina was a leading ballerina at Ballet Russes (1909-1929) at the time of the RAD’s inception and the Karsavina Syllabus, which was formally launched in 1954, drew on her own training in pre-revolutionary Russia. Karsavina was Vice-President of the RAD for over 30 years and became a Technical Advisor to the RAD’s Teacher Training course in 1945.

The Karsavina Archive

As the RAD celebrates in centenary in 2020, the Faculty of Education looks to developing an online digital ‘Karsavina Archive’, which brings together a variety of artefacts associated with the Karsavina Syllabus, as well as some of its notable teachers including Keith Lester, and Rachel Cameron.

Keith Lester (1904-1993) was an English dancer who performed repertoire by Michel Fokine as well as other notable choreographers, and toured Europe with Tamara Karsavina in the 1920s. As a choreographer, Lester created ballets for the Markova-Dolin company, Ballet Rambert, Festival Ballet, and The Windmill Theatre (1946-66). His choreography Pas De Quatre (1936) was performed by American Ballet Theatre (1946), as well as the students of the RAD’s Teacher Training Course in the 1970s. Lester taught the Karsavina Syllabus from 1961 and held post of the Principal of the College from 1965 until his retirement in 1975.

Rachel Cameron (1924-2011) was an Australian ballerina who performed in Edouard Borovansky’s company and Helen Kirsova’s in Sydney. As a teacher, she assisted Lydia Sokolova in London, demonstrated technical points for Karsavina’s Combined Technical Syllabus (later known as the Karsavina Syllabus). Cameron taught the Karsavina Syllabus from 1973 – 1996, and her dissertation titled ‘An Investigation into and Examination of the Karsavina Syllabus’ (1997) offers unique insights into her knowledge of the Syllabus. Read her obituary in The Guardian.

The Karsavina Syllabus

The Karsavina Syllabus, first known as the Combined Technical Syllabus, was devised by Tamara Karsavina (1885-1978), a founder member of the Royal Academy of Dance, to accompany its three-year Teachers’ Training Certificate in 1954. The syllabus has been handed down over six decades, with former teachers including Audrey Knight-Ellis, Claude Newman, Keith Lester, Rachel Cameron, and Joanne O’Hara. Notated in Labanotation by Dr Ann Hutchinson Guest in 1976, the notated score can be found in the RAD Library. Undergraduate students on the BA(Hons) Ballet Education can access the Karsavina Syllabus Pages as part of their studies.

The Karsavina Project

Funded by the Faculty of Education, the Karsavina Project (2009) was an exciting initiative aimed to preserve the Karsavina Syllabus as part of the RAD’s heritage through development of an online multimedia educational resource. During 2009-2010, excerpts of the Karsavina Syllabus were filmed and the project was led by Shelly Saint-Smith, Head of Learning and Teaching. Shelly worked closely with Jo O’Hara, a former teacher of the Karsavina Syllabus, and selected Level 6 students on the BA (Hons) Ballet Education programme.