3 March 2020 09:30

Celebrating the legacy of Ashton and Fonteyn

Along with a new name for our flagship event, this year will see changes to some elements of The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition that will provide candidates with exciting new challenges:

An Ashton solo

Replacing the commissioned variation, all dancers will learn a signature solo from the Ashton repertoire and coached by expert stagers from The Royal Ballet. The finalists will perform this work on stage as part of the final. The solos will remain a secret to the candidates until the competition.


Dancers will still have the opportunity to work with a choreographer on a new piece of choreography. This year we are commissioning a new piece that all the candidates will perform to open the final at the Royal Opera House, giving every candidate the opportunity to dance on that iconic stage.

Classical repertoire variations

As with previous competitions, dancers should also select and rehearse one variation from the Classical Repertoire Variations prior to the competition. The ‘Dancers Own’ variation must be between 1.00 – 1.30 minutes duration (performed in pointe shoes for females), choreographed by themselves, their teacher or a peer to a piece of music of their choice,

Ashton and Fonteyn

Although Fonteyn is perhaps best known for her partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, she was also Frederick Ashton’s muse for many years. As RAD Artistic Director, Gerard Charles points out, the competition will provide candidates with …”the opportunity to work with the Fonteyn/Ashton legacy in a very special way.”

Ashton was the founding choreographer of The Royal Ballet and is seen as one of the most important and influential figures in dance – especially for his development of what was to become known as the ‘English Style’. His choreography was distinctive for its épaulement (the way the head and shoulders are held) and fleet footwork.

At the Vic-Wells ballet, Ashton created many works on Fonteyn (and her partner Robert Helpmann). But it was her performance in his Nocturne that really elevated her to the level of his muse.

The new elements of the competition this year celebrate this powerfully creative relationship.

Dancing Times

Gerard Charles will be speaking at more length about these changes in the March issue of Dancing Times. In this, he expands  upon the Ashton/Fonteyn connection, as well as the competition being “a real bridge between the vocational and professional worlds, giving all participants the chance to work with company directors, ballet masters, and professional choreographers who encourage them to think in broader artistic terms, along with activities more typical of a company than a school situation.”

How to Apply

Candidate applications will open on 1 May. For information on how to apply for this year’s competition, visit this page. The full judging panel and coaches will be announced in April.

By renaming the competition (which is now known as The Fonteyn), we wish to encourage our candidates to embody the timeless qualities of classical ballet artistry, epitomised by Margot Fonteyn. Despite all the technical advances and changes since Fonteyn last appeared on stage, the standards she set are even more desirable to aspire to today. We will continue to pay tribute to Adeline Genée, our founder and architect of the competition, with the Genée Gold Medal, and the expectations of what are required to achieve it. Named the greatest ballerina of her day, she will always be an important source of inspiration to our work at the RAD.