About the On Point display

Produced as part of On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100

On now until Sunday, 1 May 2022

More about this Display

On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 celebrates the centenary of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), one of the world's leading dance education and training organisations. With over 60 original objects, including costumes, designs and posters, alongside a wealth of photographs and film material, this display traces the prestigious dance academy's roots and influence, from its founding in 1920 through to its ground-breaking work to make dance accessible for all today.

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE, Carlos Acosta and Gary Avis in The Song of the Earth, ROH, 2007. Part of the Graham Brandon Collection, THM/110. Image by Graham Brandon. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Curated by the V&A with the RAD, the display explores the Academy's history, including the impact of important figures such as Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev and other stars of the dance world who became Presidents of the Academy and promoted its work. The RAD's first President was Dame Adeline Genée, who brought respectability to the then very dubious career of dance. Within 15 years of founding the Academy, Genée had secured its Royal Charter, and was succeeded by ballerinas Dame Margot Fonteyn, Dame Antoinette Sibley and currently, Dame Darcey Bussell.

Adeline Genée in 'A Dream of Roses and Butterflies'. Photo by Hugh Cecil.

On show will be costumes worn by the Presidents, including Dame Darcey Bussell's dress for Kenneth MacMillan's The Prince of the Pagodas, the role which brought her public acclaim, along with designs for costumes created for Adeline Genée, Tamara Karsavina and Margot Fonteyn.

(Left) Costume for Margot Fonteyn in Paquita designed by Philip Prowse © Royal Academy of Dance; (Right) Costume for Fuschias by Claud Lovat Fraser  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Other highlights include a 1942 harlequin sculpture by Alfred Gilbert, the sculptor behind the famous Eros statue at London's Piccadilly; a unique 1950s pamphlet 'Ballet Exercise for Athletes' featuring original artwork by Punch illustrator Fougasse, famous for his 'Careless talk Costs Lives' Second World War posters; and shoes worn by Dame Darcey Bussell at her farewell performance as a member of The Royal Ballet (2007).

Harlequin statue by Alfred Gilbert for Production Club (RAD), date unknown. Presented to the RAD in 1924 by Stanislas Idzikowski. © Ali Wright, Dance Gazette
Pointe shoes worn by Darcey Bussell in Song of the Earth at her farewell performance as a member of The Royal Ballet, 2007 . © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The V&A's Theatre and Performance Department is home to one of the largest dance collections in Europe, including many objects that once belonged to the RAD. Drawing on the combined resources and archives of both institutions, this display reveals how the RAD helped to establish British dance, and continues to champion dance as an inclusive, rather than elite, art form across the world.

Pupils from RAD's Step Into Dance programme. © Foteini Christofilopoulou
Background image: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London