The Royal Ballet School is well-known for training young dancers to an exceptional standard, and many of its graduates go on to enjoy prominent careers on the stage. Beyond its full-time courses in London, the School’s broader vision to drive dance education forward across the UK and around the world has led to the launch of the new Affiliate Training and Assessment Programme. This programme offers the School’s unique System of Training to UK and international recreational dance teachers.
The pioneering programme provides an alternative to the current model of exam study that recreational dance organisations offer, one that emphasises high-quality training. The School hopes the programme will raise the bar for the current standard of global recreational dance training, keeping pace with developments in education theory and the art form’s evolving needs.
The Royal Ballet School’s vision behind the Affiliate Training and Assessment Programme is simple: Educate dance teachers to a high standard, and they will, in turn, provide an exceptional education to their students.
Trainees can expect nothing but the best from one of the world leaders in classical ballet education. The School’s Head of Training and Access Mark Annear and Senior Teacher Training Manager Karen Berry have overseen the programme’s development with support from Artistic Director Christopher Powney, and Affiliate teachers receive training directly from Royal Ballet School staff to ensure consistent quality.
In addition to first-class teacher training, the pioneering programme is unique for two reasons: It focuses on growing students’ talents through quality teaching, rather than box-ticking exams and takes a holistic view of dance training. Let’s explore both of these in more depth.
In contrast to the current model of recreational dance assessment, which typically involves a pre-set syllabus and students progressing through external examinations, the School’s new model offers a programme of study with clear learning outcomes and internal assessments.
The programme empowers Affiliate Teachers to assume a more autonomous approach to guiding and assessing their students’ learning. Rather than bringing in external examiners, Affiliate teachers conduct assessments themselves, with student progress benchmarked through material that teachers have designed for their own students. Royal Ballet School staff support this process by moderating and assessing video submissions recorded at the students’ dance school and submitted via a secure, online platform.
In this way, the programme embraces a learning style that places students and their experiences at the forefront, one where young dancers’ needs drive the teacher’s approach to content and delivery. This transforms a traditional, rigid model of teaching into one that is far more flexible and versatile. Not only is this approach beneficial for teachers who are keen to take a more active, creative role in their profession, but it also provides better opportunities for children with different learning styles and needs.
The programme aims to help teachers feel inspired to aim for continuous professional development and achieve greater satisfaction in both their careers and creativity. Meanwhile, students work through a tailored dance education that meets their specific needs, allowing them to hone their skills in a well-rounded curriculum.
The programme takes a holistic approach to dance education that, alongside essential performance skills, provides students with context of the wider art form, including information on repertoire and choreography. The holistic method ensures students develop as dynamic, inquisitive young dancers who have an appreciation for the art form and understand that dance is not simply about technical skill but also an outlet for them to express themselves creatively.
While it’s well-established that teaching children how to learn and think critically can provide them with key life skills, Artistic Director Powney emphasises that the School’s Affiliate Training and Assessment Programme is the first to apply these principles to recreational ballet training.
“This truly is ground-breaking and a necessary evolution,” he says. “I believe it will bring untold rewards, with students supported and nurtured to become happy, resilient young people with the curiosity and confidence to shape their own paths.”
Governors of The Royal Ballet School Kevin O’Hare and Carlos Acosta are equally enthusiastic about what the new programme represents for the world of dance.
Acosta says: “Affiliate teachers will facilitate a holistic learning environment where students are free to explore, experiment, and fall in love with expressive movement, bringing great joy and fulfilment to both students and teachers.”
“Not only will the programme ensure that we have a generation of young dancers and dance supporters who understand and value ballet and its history, but [it] will support young students to be fearless in expressing themselves creatively, whether they eventually pursue a career in the arts or not,” O’Hare adds.
For those interested in the Affiliate Training and Assessment Programme, The Royal Ballet School provides detailed information on this in its online prospectus. Here, we’ll answer three of the most common questions about the programme.
Who Is the Programme Suitable For?
The programme is for recreational ballet teachers who have a minimum of three years’ experience, as well as graduates of other Royal Ballet School teacher training programmes. It should appeal to those who value innovation and versatility, understand the need for highly trained teachers in the recreational dance industry, and want to promote holistic dance training.
What Age Is the Programme Designed For?
The programme offers six training levels, three each for primary and secondary school students. Within each level, the School recommends an age band, ranging from ages 5 to 18. There are three more enhanced levels for secondary school students who show particular aptitude and commitment.
The School delivers Affiliate teacher training through a combination of in-person instruction, online webinars, and video content available through the School’s video-on-demand platform.
Once candidates have successfully made it through the three-stage application process, they may take part in an initial training programme. This involves a week of intensive training in July, with one day online and five days onsite at the School’s Covent Garden studios. Candidates must then complete an additional five days of online training and, through September to December, further online assessment.
Powney acknowledges that the development of the School’s digital platforms has widened the accessibility of the programme. The School has extensively expanded its digital capacity over the last year to increase its reach across the world with content available to audiences in different time zones.
Applications for the first cohort of Affiliate Teachers opened in March 2022, and, in July, 30 trainees took part in a week of intensive training at The Royal Ballet School’s Covent Garden studios and the Royal Opera House. Trainees described the experience as “inspirational,” “excellent,” and “powerful.”
Affiliate Programme Manager Vanessa Donkin, along with Annear, Berry, and other key members of the School team, delivered the training, combining theoretical and practical sessions, class discussion, and reflection. Trainees gained insights into the key areas of classical ballet technique, teaching and learning theory, body conditioning and awareness, and creative practice and repertoire. There was also a session with the School’s commercial team, who, as part of the programme, provide ongoing marketing and communications support to the Affiliate teachers.
In addition to providing in-depth and engaging training, the School is keen to foster a supportive, dynamic community of Affiliate teachers. During the training, the participants had ample opportunity to network with other recreational dance teachers and share their ideas. Trainees left the experience with new connections with peers and Royal Ballet School staff, along with a range of digital learning resources accessible through an online hub on the School’s video-on-demand platform.
These trainee Affiliate teachers have gone on to implement the programme in their own schools, using the tools and knowledge gained from their initial training and further online learning. Once they complete their trial period, trainees must pass an evaluation before transitioning to full Affiliate teachers of The Royal Ballet School.
A historic institution of classical ballet teaching, The Royal Ballet School has trained generations of famed dancers and choreographers, from household names like Darcey Bussell and Margot Fonteyn to rising stars like Marcelino Sambé and Francesca Hayward.
Talented, young dancers travel from all over the world to take part in the School’s full-time dance training in London. The eight-year course combines a comprehensive classical ballet education with an extensive academic curriculum, pastoral care, and healthcare programme, helping students flourish and grow into happy, healthy performers.
Alongside this, the School’s Training and Access programme enables audiences outside of the School, including primary school pupils and recreational dance teachers, to access its unique expertise and resources. The School prides itself on providing the highest standard of training so that dance teachers can help students everywhere achieve their greatest potential.