The aDvANCE conference took place over three days at The Royal Ballet School's White Lodge in Richmond Park from 28 September to 1 October 2023. The conference focused on understanding today's students' experience of elite training and working together to facilitate nurturing studio environments and organisational cultures.
The conference was Christopher Powney's idea with the support of Jaimie Tapper (Deputy CEO, Shoreditch Trust, Organisational Psychologist; Trustee, Studio Wayne McGregor; Trustee, Prix de Lausanne), and Delia Barker (Managing Director, Brixton House; Chair, Phoenix Dance Theatre; Governor, Royal Ballet School) joined Jaimie in facilitating the weekend.
The conference aimed to inspire open conversation, to promote continuous improvement, and a process of sharing and learning from each other. The representatives sought to identify current and future challenges for their organisations and the wider industry, as well as explore and develop solutions and best practices. They were also tasked with establishing ways for the international industry to forge closer and mutually beneficial ties.
Christopher Powney said:
In a fast-paced, rapidly changing world, building a community where we can work together to respond to challenges is essential. As educators entrusted with the nurturing of young people and leaders of elite performance environments, our shared focus is the needs of our students and their carers and how we can shape the future of training for our evolving industry with those needs in mind.
aDvANCE was invaluable for all of us in attendance, it was enlightening and inspiring. I'm grateful to our facilitators and the delegates for embracing this opportunity, and I feel hopeful and energised for what we can achieve together.
Through small and whole group discussions, delegates addressed pertinent topics such as understanding and recognising the evolving needs of students and their carers; improving communication between school and student/carer and building a culture of trust; empowering students and their carers in the training environment; and nurturing students holistically, developing whole life skills alongside attributes needed for a future as a professional dancer.
The group also discussed the changing expectations of the ballet industry, how to support students through the transition to employment, whether in a performance or non-dance pathway, and how we can forge relationships with industry leaders to drive change in our art form.
Jaimie Tapper said:
This is a pivotal moment for our industry. Together, we have committed to building an industry-wide network to effect tangible change and ensure our training environments are fit for purpose in today's world. I'm excited for the next steps.
Jason Beechey, Director, Palucca Hochschule fur Tanz Dresden and Interim External Advisor, Zurich Dance Academy
Amanda Britton, Chief Executive, Principal and Artistic Director, Rambert School
José Carayol, Head of Artistic Programmes and Production, The Royal Ballet School
Kate Coyne, Artistic Director and Professional Training Lead, Central School of Ballet
Viviana Durante, Artistic Director, English National Ballet School
Kevin Durwael, Artistic Director, Koninklijk Balletschool Antwerpen
Nena Gilreath, Co-founder and co-artistic Director, Ballethnic Dance Company and Ballethnic Academy of Dance
Gigi Hyatt, Pedagogical Principal and Deputy Director, The Ballet School of Hamburg Ballet
Jahn-Magnus Johansen, Assistant Ballet Director and Leader, Norwegian National Ballet 2
Simon Larter-Evans, Principal, Tring Park School
Waverly Lucas, Co-founder and co-artistic Director, Resident Choreographer, Ballethnic Dance Company
Ernst Meisner, Artistic Director, Dutch National Ballet Academy and Coordinator and Choreographer, Junior Company at Dutch National Ballet
Kathleen Mitchell, Graduate Rehearsal Director, Boston Ballet School
Robert Parker, Artistic Director, Elmhurst Ballet School
Élisabeth Platel, Director, Paris Opera Ballet School
Christopher Powney, Artistic Director & CEO, The Royal Ballet School
Jennifer Sommers, Director, Houston Ballet Academy
Mavis Staines, Artistic Director and CEO, Canada's National Ballet School
Christian Tàtchev, Director, Queensland Ballet Academy
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.