The RAD is one of the world’s most influential dance education organisations. Our exams set standards in classical ballet worldwide and we are a global leader in dance education and Continuing Professional Development for dance.
The RAD started life in 1920 as the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain.
It was born out of a meeting of leading dance professionals arranged by Philip Richardson, former editor of the Dancing Times. With Adeline Genée chosen from among her peers as its first President, the Association launched its first syllabus in the same year and held its first exams in 1921.
1928 saw Queen Mary become the Association's first patron and in 1936 it became the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) after receiving its Royal Charter from King George V. The following year, the RAD was awarded its coat of arms by the College of Arms.
You can also download The First 75 Years, an anniversary brochure published in 1995 which details our history to that point. A detailed history and chronology of the RAD will be available here shortly.
Now in our 94th year, we continue to promote and develop excellence in dance. Our syllabi are taught around the world and thousands of students are enrolled on our many dance courses and study programmes. Our alumni have gone on to work with the most prestigious dance companies and to become the best teachers. And, as part of our social responsibility remit, we continue to bring dance into a growing range of communities and schools.
In 2015 Richard Thom, Director of Finance, and Kerry Rubie, RAD Chairman, will step down after 27 and 14 years respectively with the Academy. In conversation, they reflect on the remarkable changes they have seen, and look toward the future.
Richard Thom Kerry, how did you first become a Trustee and Chairman of the Board of Trustees?
Kerry Rubie I think it was either late 1990s or early noughties. I used to work in the advertising business, and through that I got to meet Roger Harrison, who was RAD Chairman from 1993. He was a member of a society called the Beefsteak Club, and invited me there. Roger said 'you've done so much for the RAD over the years. We think it'd be great if you joined the board.'
RT I answered an advert. On the day I arrived for an interview I had an accident reversing out of the Castle Pub because I couldn't find the Academy, so I was terribly late. I came as the Accountant in 1988. In those days the Academy was a relatively small business and hadn't really thought about the need for a higher position. Within one half year I became the Financial Controller, and three years later I became the Academy's first Director of Finance.
KR How would you describe the changes since you've been here?
RT I think you can measure it in what we see in our everyday world. We have moved from Telex machines to email; from Olivetti typewriters to PCs; from a turnover of £7 million to £20 million; a staff of 37 to 120 in the UK; a change of name; an upgraded constitution, a new building (the Fonteyn Centre)… all built in my time.
KR One thing that I've noticed is the degree of professionalism. We now have a Faculty of Education and are an award granting body. We produce professional teachers who have the ability to teach a curriculum that I have no hesitation in saying is the benchmark for the dance education industry. It's just continually progressed, which is something I'm proud of. You must feel incredibly proud because you've been one of the people who have made that happen.
I'm also very conscious of how we have evolved our capability of communicating with our membership. I think that sets us apart. I know that when the monthly newsletter pops up on my email, I can't wait to open it. There's always something new and fresh. I don't believe there's any dance organisation that has the same degree of communication with its members.
RT What has been your proudest achievement?
KR I'd go back to recognising the need to bring the constitution into current times. I'm comfortable that we have a constitution that is capable of providing the organisation with an administrative framework that can address whatever needs are thrown at it.
What do you think is the most significant thing that's changed that you've been involved in?
RT I'd like to be remembered for putting the Academy on a much more stable footing. When I arrived the Academy had gone nearly bankrupt three times during the course of its existence. My biggest challenge was to put a solid base into the Academy, so that we could have continuity of revenues and costs. There's a bit more work to do, but we're in a far better place than we were when I first arrived. I would hope that's been one of my legacies.
A second thing is the organisational change. The Academy was quite a loose-knit organisation of activities overseas without any real legal structure. It is now a network of branch subsidiaries and representative offices. We're in a much stronger legal position. The Academy has grown over the years, and the calibre of staff we've taken on board here in London and overseas has been a tremendous asset.
Have you had any major challenges while you've been here?
KR I think the challenges are ahead of us. The Academy has grown to about 14,000 members globally. Any organisation must always grow; you cannot stay the same. We are ensuring that we continue to assemble a group of teachers who are teaching a curriculum in whatever part of the world it may be, and at the moment I'm particularly excited about China. There is an enormous appetite for classical ballet in China. We just recently graduated the first students out of Tongji University. These are the things that are going to be very important to how we're going to progress the organisation.
Of all your memories, is there one that stands out?
RT I always remember an Examiner coming in to see me and she gave me this sweet box stuffed full of money. She'd been carrying it around very faithfully throughout an examination tour and going through the airport. There are lots of little things like that. The Examiners have been the most tremendous group of people I've ever met, and I'd like to thank them all for having been such friends of mine.
KR Hear, hear! They're in many respects the lifeblood of the organisation because they bring to fruition what we teach. This year was very special in that for the first time we brought all the Examiners together for one meeting. Here was this bunch of enthusiastic, committed members of the Academy who are the ones who actually determine whether these kids get their certificate or not.
Soon there will be somebody new sitting in your chair. What advice would you give them?
RT I would tell them to look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Everybody has their own way of doing things. They also need to enjoy the environment – if you understand what the Academy is all about then the decisions become much easier.
KR It's a pretty unique organisation and you don't learn unique things easily.
RT And what advice would you give to your successor?
KR One is the importance of staying true to your principles, while recognising that sometimes you have to be a little flexible. A colleague in Taiwan told me, 'after the storm has passed the bamboo tree still stands' and I thought that was very wise. As a trustee or chairman you are in a position of advising, and perhaps persuading, but you are not the executioner. Make sure you never cross that line and try to run the business yourself.
What would you like the Academy to do as it approaches its centenary in 2020?
RT Well what I think is very important is that we properly house and find a new location that we're proud of, that represents a multi-national organisation. My vision for 2020 is a dynamic organisation in a new location, looking to the future.