The Royal Academy Of Dance’s Prestigious ballet competition returns to the UK

CURTAIN CALL ; Margot Fonteyn ; at the Royal Opera House, London, UK ; 1976 ; Credit: G.B.L. Wilson / Royal Academy of Dance / ArenaPAL

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is renaming its prestigious, annual ballet competition to celebrate its longest-serving President, Dame Margot Fonteyn. The competition will be hosted in the UK for the first time in five years to coincide with the Academy’s centenary. 2020 also marks the first time that the competition will be held at London’s Royal Opera House, offering aspiring young dancers the chance to perform on one of the world’s most famous stages.

Margot Fonteyn is regarded as the greatest ballet dancer of her generation. As President of the RAD she was instrumental in shaping the Academy’s international expansion. In 1961, Fonteyn invited Rudolf Nureyev to perform at a RAD gala, his first ever London performance after his defection, leading to the pair’s legendary partnership, which propelled them to iconic status worldwide.

Formerly known as the Genée after the Royal Academy of Dance’s first ever President, the competition began in 1931 to celebrate the world’s most talented young performers. The RAD will continue to honour its first president with the Adeline Genée gold medal for the best dancer.

SWAN LAKE CURTAIN CALL ; Dame Margot Fonteyn ; The Royal Ballet , at the Royal Opera House, London, UK ; 1971 ; Credit: G.B.L. Wilson / Royal Academy of Dance / ArenaPAL
SWAN LAKE CURTAIN CALL; Dame Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Opera House, 1971 Photo by G.B.L. Wilson  Royal Academy of Dance

Dancers aged 15 – 19 years old who have trained in the RAD syllabus will have the unique opportunity to work with world-renowned choreographers and teachers for five days at the Royal Ballet School, before performing at the semi-finals, and then at the final at the Royal Opera House. The RAD acknowledges with gratitude the support of the Dame Margot Fonteyn Scholarship Fund, the only charity bearing her name, which will provide significant additional support to the competition to mark the name change.   The Fund also continues its ongoing support of candidates at the competition, pledging an increased number of bursaries per annum for the next five years, and continuing to present the audience choice award in Dame Margot’s name.

Past Genée medallists have gone on to work for some of the great ballet companies around the world. Genée medallists who currently work for The Royal Ballet include Steven McRae, Alexander Campbell, Lauren Cuthbertson and Francesca Hayward.

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE, President of the Royal Academy of Dance, said:

It’s an honour to pay tribute to one of the world’s greatest ever ballet dancers and the longest serving President of the RAD, in this way.  By renaming the competition after Margot, we want to encourage today’s young dancers to emulate the qualities that she was famous for. 

Margot had the magical ability to communicate to her audience through her story telling and natural lyricism, making every member of the audience feel completely engaged. She had wonderful musicality, a purity of line and an unfailing dedication and love of her art. I was fortunate enough to be coached by Margot in Swan Lake at the beginning of my career, something I will never forget. As we approach the Academy’s centenary, I don’t think there is an artist whose name will inspire more students of ballet in the next century, than that of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Prima Ballerina Assoluta.”

Darcey Bussell. Photo: Credit_English Heritage, Lucy Millson-Watkins
Darcey Bussell. Photo: Credit_English Heritage, Lucy Millson-Watkins

The RAD will host the semi-finals and final at the Royal Opera House. Semi-finals will take place 2 – 3 September 2020 in the new Linbury Theatre, and the Final will take place on Saturday 5 September 2020 on the ROH main stage. Dame Darcey will chair the international jury throughout the competition.

Alongside hosting the newly named Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition, the RAD will be running a number of events, exhibitions and performances in honour of its centenary next year. Among the highlights are a free, year-long exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum from February 2020; a commemorative coffee-table book, a series of 100 events in 100 places, and Dance is in our DNA, a video project using the app Seenit to showcase the diverse work of the RAD and its membership around the world.  This special anniversary year will also see the RAD move to its new purpose built headquarters in Battersea, establishing a new ‘home of dance’ in London.

To find out more about the competition and RAD’s centenary celebrations visit: