Officially, the first-ever School of Dance was founded in 1661, by King Louis XIV, the Roi Soleil, in France. Not only he was a great dancer, but Louis wanted his Court also with dance abilities that demanded learning. With time and evolution, the ballet was created.
However popular in Italy, Russia, France, and Denmark, by the early XX, there wasn’t a formal British School. There were plenty of ballets. dance and dancers but not formal education. In 1920 it all changed when it was founded the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). Two major ballerinas were amongst its founders, Danish Adeline Genée and legendary Tamara Karsavina.
That was 101 years ago. Currently directed by former dancer Darcey Bussell, RAD has students all over the world (I myself graduated from it) following its syllabus and exams that keep quality and high-level technic. For lucky ones based in London, there is the exhibit On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which retells the story of this amazing century of innovation and art with never seen photos, videos, and costumes. The Museum is closed due to the pandemic, but it should reopen soon and the exhibit goes through September.
At the time RAD was founded, besides Karsavina, who danced with Vaslav Nijinsky at the Ballets Russes, none less than Anna Pavlova was also living in London. There were great teachers available and together they created the amazing British style.
Tamara Karsavina is mentioned as being the one who developed the training that is still used today. She left in 1955.
Having created the role of Firebird, by Mikhail Fokine with music by Igor Stravinsky, she personally taught it to Margot Fonteyn, 44 years after its premiere in Paris.
In 1954, Margot Fonteyn was already a star and took on the direction of RAD. She was the one who developed the basic curse taught to children up to this day. One of her innovations was to make sure the classes were pleasant to children, allowing them to learn moving and the movements naturally. It contributes to the amazing musicality that is so strong within the British style.
It was still in the 1960s when Margot was still directing RAS that she first met a young Rudolf Nureyev. She asked him to be part of a Gala for the Academy and he insisted on dancing with her. The most magical partnership of ballet was born this way. At the exhibit, there are many pictures of the two rehearsing and smiling. RAD made it possible that many choreographers and dancers could begin their first steps. It’s always important to celebrate it.