The History of RAD Australia

The RAD started life in 1920 as the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing in Great Britain.

It was born out of a meeting of leading dance professionals arranged by Philip Richardson, former editor of the Dancing Times. With Adeline Genée chosen from among her peers as its first President, the Association launched its first syllabus in the same year and held its first exams in 1921.

1928 saw Queen Mary become the Association’s first patron and in 1936 it became the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) after receiving its Royal Charter from King George V. The following year, the RAD was awarded its coat of arms by the College of Arms.

The first examinations of the Royal Academy of Dance in Australia commenced in May 1935 with UK visiting examiner Felix Demery whose five weeks grades and major tour included Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Brisbane. A resounding success! The Frances Scully School of Dancing in Sydney created the then world record for submitting 320 entries with 306 passes. At the end of his tour Demery conducted syllabus classes for teachers who came from around Australia and New Zealand, and the Australian Advisory Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Jennie Brenan.

Some of Australia’s greatest pioneer teachers and early organisers – Linley Wilson (Western Australia), Jennie Brenan (Victoria) and Frances Scully (New South Wales) and their colleagues Margorie Hollingshed (Queensland), Lorraine Norton (New South Wales) and Eunice Weston (Victoria) continued to promote and establish the RAD syllabus in Australia. They appointed additional organisers – Phyllis Danaher in Brisbane, Joanne Priest in Adelaide, Jessie Brownlie in Newcastle, Gwen Hardee in Townsville and Madge Wallace in Wagga Wagga.  Later, Markova/Dolin Ballet company member and the Academy’s world-wide first Genee silver medallist, Joan Burnett travelled to Australia to teach in Melbourne before relocating to Launceston to establish the RAD in northern Tasmania.

1937 was a significant year. Felix Demery returned to examine in Australia and granted the first two Academy scholarships (the New South Wales and Queensland Scholarships), the forerunner to the current Australian Advanced 1 Bursary. In London, Frances Scully and Lorraine Norton were appointed as the first Children’s examiners for Australia.

The 1939 examinations tour brought Kathleen Danetree to Australia and during the tour World War II was declared. She immediately returned home to the UK, but returned again to Australia in 1941 for what was one of the longest RAD examination tours – five years, due to the War. Upon Brenan’s retirement as Organiser and Chair of the Australian Advisory Committee and with the passing of Frances Scully, Danetree was appointed Secretary of the Australian Advisory Committee and the Academy’s organiser for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Other new members of the Committee included Harold Bowden, Lady Tait, Lady Lloyd Jones, Dr Phyllis Anderson and Phyllis Danaher. The Committee promoted and increased the profile of the Academy arranging events and fundraising functions including the first visit to Sydney and Melbourne by Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias DBE, the Academy’s President.

Danetree resigned in 1955 as organiser due to the volume of work and Sheila Stokes became the full-time Secretary for over 30 years.

Linley Wilson, Kathleen Danetree, Lorraine Norton and Phyllis Danaher were all appointed examiners and each awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Dance for their exceptional service to the Academy over many years. Lady Tait, Linley Wilson, Kathleen Danetree and Lorraine Norton were appointed to the Academy’s then Grand Council. In acknowledgement of their dedication and achievements in the wider dance community, Kathleen Danetree was awarded an OBE, Phyllis Danaher an MBE and Linley Wilson and Joan Burnett de Vere each an OAM.


Celebrating the Royal Academy of Dance at 100