Classical dance originated during the Italian Renaissance. The Italian monarchs and aristocrats enjoyed music and dance and at the end of the 16th century an art was created, that spread to France and later all over Europe.
Before the appearance of pointe and tutus, ballet dancers used movements from traditional dances and were dressed according to trends of that time Wealthy people and members of the royal families were the only people that had the chance to involve in dancing, as there were no professional dancers. The first ballet performance is held to be in 1581, at the French court of Catherine de’ Medici.
Ballet groups in France used elaborate costumes, sets and formations around the stage. Louis XIV established the first dance academy under the name Académie Royale de la Dance, today known as Paris Opera Ballet. During this period, the first classical dance schools were established. Furthermore, ballet terminology was also defined in French, which was internationally acceptable. At first, all roles were danced by men and only by the year of 1681 women took part for the first time.
The classical ballet technique became famous in the 18th century and resulted in being an art form similar to opera. In the 19th century, romantic ballets became especially famous and so classical dance was no longer related to its aristocratic roots. During this century, Denmark and Russia were among the countries that became centers of the classical dance, while in France interest was declining. Marius Petipa, choreographer in Imperial Russian Ballet and the composer Peter Tchaikovsky created works like the Sleeping Beauty, the Nutcracker, and the Swan Lake. Russia continued to play an important role in the 20th century, with the leading figure of the company “Ballet Russes” of Sergei Diaghilev which first appeared in Paris in 1909. Diaghilev cooperated with the composer Igor Stravinsky and created different and innovative performances. The Ballet Russes ballet company revitalized ballet at international level. Some of the company’s dancers were Anna Pavlova, Marie Rambert and Nanette de Valois that established British ballet and George Balanchine that worked later in the U.S.A. During the years of 1920 and 1930 there was a bigger gap between classical dance and tradition, as choreographers, trying to express current political matters differentiated from traditional dance.
The first classical dance attempt registered in the USA and Canada were the ballet groups that later formed the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. Today, ballet groups around the world continue the tradition of classical dance, while they also try to give a new impulse to its technical and artistic characteristics. International ballet schools and traveling groups spread innovative ideas throughout the world and try to introduce this type of dance into the next century.
The Royal Academy of Dance is an educational institution with great international influence. The exams set the basis for international classical dance and play a leading role in dance education. RAD was first established in 1920 under the name “Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain”. It was formed after a meeting of first dancers that was arranged by Philip Richardson, former director of Dancing Times. Adeline Genée was elected to serve as the first school director and the first exams were held in 1921. In 1928 Queen Mary became Patron of the Academy and in 1936 was renamed “Royal Academy of Dancing” (RAD), after the decision of King George V. The following year, the RAD was awarded its coat of arms by the College of Arms. Every year nearly 230,000 candidates enter the Academy examinations worldwide.
There is a wide range of exams and assessments in order to motivate and reward students of all ages and skills. Aim of the Academy is the creativity and the musicality but also the chances for progress and success through a grading program. Each candidate that succeeds in the exams gets a certificate and the detailed grading. In some levels medals are also given. Starting by the age of two, students get to know Pre-primary and Primary levels before moving to upper grade levels that require special movements.
Basic education: Classes from 1-8 incorporate ballet, free movement as well as character dance and apply to children from seven years old (grades 1-5) until 11 (grades 6-8).
High-level studies: at this level older students are taught technique, music and performance ability. This way, they are prepared for a career in professional dance or relevant to it. These exams are considered the basic education and the necessary requirement for those considering a career in professional dance.
Moreover, the examinations are internationally recognized from universities and educational institutions offering studies in the field of Arts. Many of the graduates become part of dance groups all over the world. All certificates awarded by the Dance Academy of London are internationally recognized.
Examinations and grading are the session organizers’ responsibility. They have been trained and supervised by the Academy that is now located in 25 countries around the world. In 2010 RAD celebrated its 90th birthday. Nowadays, Queen Elizabeth II is patron of the RAD.