The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) has revealed that it has discovered footage of its former President, Dame Margot Fonteyn, never seen before and which will be available to view as part of a free-to-visit display at the V&A to mark the RAD’s centenary.
On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 opens in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Gallery today, 2 December, ahead of RAD officially turning 100 on 31 December. Home to one of the largest dance collections in Europe, this is the first time that RAD has given access to its archives on this scale in its history.
The footage, filmed in 1972 by Margot Fonteyn’s brother Felix, is a demonstration of a ballet syllabus for children (filmed in Fonteyn’s presence), which Dame Margot helped to create with a group of RAD teachers during her time as President of the Academy. In the video, she is shown introducing the demonstration and explaining the principles behind the syllabus, encouraging the children in the video to ‘dance nicely’.
This footage remained hidden in the RAD’s archives until recently. When prompted by a question at an AGM, Archives and Records Manager Eleanor Fitzpatrick searched uncatalogued film materials in storage, where she found a set of canisters, containing reels of 16mm film, labelled simply ‘Children’s Syllabus’. On further investigation, this turned out to be the never before seen film with Fonteyn. The video would have been used as a training tool for RAD teachers across the globe to prepare for teaching the syllabus to their students. Due to financial reasons at the time, the RAD was never able to release the film, which explains how it remained unseen for so long.
Over 250,000 people around the world take an RAD ballet exam each year, using syllabi similar to this one, which have been developed by the Academy over the years. This footage shows the first time any of the RAD syllabus was recorded on film and illustrates how involved Fonteyn was with the whole process.
It was hugely exciting to find this footage hidden in our uncatalogued archive material after so many years. Although we are lucky enough to be able to see recordings of Margot Fonteyn’s performances on stage online, this is such a rare glimpse into her work behind the scenes, helping RAD to inspire the world to dance, and supporting young children taking their very first steps into the dance studio. It is a real testament to the legacy Fonteyn left during her time as President of the RAD. I am so pleased that we are able to share this with the public at our display at the V&A.
Dame Margot Fonteyn is the RAD’s longest-serving President. She held this role from 1954 until her death in 1991. She was succeeded by Dame Antoinette Sibley and now, Dame Darcey Bussell, who is the RAD’s current President.
Hear more about the people who shaped the RAD and the objects that tell the Academy’s story at On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 and prepare for your visit to the V&A, including booking free, timed-entry tickets.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.