On Wednesday 12 July 2017, I graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance with First Class Honours.
The Royal Academy of Dance is one of the world’s most influential institutions for dance education and dance teacher training. Founded by an international group of dancers and dance teachers in 1920 to set standards for dance teaching in the United Kingdom, the organisation now operates in 85 countries. Its classical ballet syllabus is taught globally, with more than 240,000 candidates taking Royal Academy of Dance ballet examinations each year. Beyond this, an ever-increasing programme of outreach work takes dance into diverse communities, while the Faculty of Education’s research develops knowledge that informs and inspires dance enthusiasts all over the world.
I graduated from the BA (Hons) Dance Education programme. This varied programme not only equips graduates with the anatomical, musical and pedagogical knowledge and understanding to teach dance, but also engages with philosophical, professional and practical issues in the fields of dance and dance education.
After acquiring a broad perspective on dance education across all contexts, I explored dance in the community, dance for older learners and dance in higher education. This afforded me insight into the wider benefits of dance participation and has enhanced my teaching practice by empowering me as a reflective and empathetic professional. Furthermore, examining these topics has enriched my awareness of the irreplaceable role of the arts, and specifically dance, in lifelong education.
In other modules, I focused on ballet. This enabled me to delve into the relationship between music and mime, refining my appreciation of Romantic era ballets and facilitating new ways to use the music as an educational resource in the studio. Concentrating on ballet also made the most of my expertise by allowing me to discuss familiar ballet companies in relation to relevant historical, political, economic, artistic and educational circumstances.
Completing my dissertation, titled Meet Me at the Barre: Community in the Ballet Class, combined my skills as a researcher, interviewer, writer and academic with my passion as a dancer and teacher. Inspired by my own experience of ballet classes, I investigated the role of the ballet teacher in making the most of the sense of community that the ballet class can provide.
The Royal Academy of Dance Awards Ceremony 2017 was held in The Sherfield Building at Imperial College’s South Kensington Campus. Here, Luke Rittner CBE, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Dance, gave a welcome address that explained why all dance teachers must strive to remain well educated and dedicated. Michelle Groves, director of education and training at the Royal Academy of Dance, then proceeded to announce the awards, with Darcey Bussell CBE, president of the Royal Academy of Dance, congratulating each graduate as they crossed the stage.
I was awarded a scholarship by the Faculty of Education in 2016 and was one of just fifteen students to graduate from the BA (Hons) Dance Education programme this year. Briefly sharing a stage with retired principal ballerina of The Royal Ballet and current Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell when my name was announced was an obvious highlight of the ceremony. However, hearing from guest speaker Lady Deborah MacMillan was equally memorable.
Artist Deborah MacMillan has designed ballets for the stage and television and is the custodian of the ballets of her late husband Sir Kenneth MacMillan (The Royal Ballet’s former artistic director and choreographer). This means she divides her time between overseeing productions of his ballets and her own work as an artist. Lady MacMillan’s speech was full of anecdotes about her husband’s development as a young dancer and her own thoughts on the importance of art in education. Significantly, she urged all the graduates present to use their knowledge to motivate others to get the most from dance and emphasised the essential role of inspiring teachers in keeping the art of dance alive.
Teaching is an art. A tried-and-tested approach will not necessarily work for every learner and people participate in dance classes for all sorts of reasons. My teaching ethos is therefore based on an ambition to help everyone in my classes to recognise their own strengths and progress positively.
Studying Dance Education with the Royal Academy of Dance has reaffirmed to me just how much zeal I have for learning, improving, performing and watching dance. Without a doubt, sharing dance with others through both my writing and teaching is something I take great pride in and feel privileged to do.
The Royal Academy of Dance often uses the tagline “Learn. Teach. Dance” in its marketing materials and I think that this will remain one of my mottos. I will certainly continue to seek out knowledge, share ideas and seize every chance to dance as I am happiest when discovering new things, writing and working in a dance studio. Now possessing a comprehensive knowledge of dance and dance education, in addition to experience teaching individuals of all ages, I aspire to inspire the dancers and audiences of the future!
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.