Meet Alexander Campbell, Royal Academy of Dance’s New Artistic Director
June 5, 2024

Alexander Campbell has a knack for extending his passion for ballet beyond his performances. While a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet for eight years, he was also a well-spoken presenter for World Ballet Day, an advocate at cricket matches for boys to study ballet, producer of innovative independent performance projects, and co-owner of a ballet school with two London locations.

His range of interests and abilities made him one to watch for exciting post-performing plans. In February, the first step of his next act was announced: artistic director of the Royal Academy of Dance. He retired from the Royal Ballet the following month and began his position at the RAD in April. 

Founded in 1920, the RAD has a vast reach in 2023, teaching its syllabus and administering about 250,000 exams in over 80 countries. The RAD also runs the Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition (formerly the Genée), is the home of Benesh notation and The Wolfson Library of dance, and offers teacher training, leadership training, the Silver Swans program for older dancers, and classes at its London headquarters.  

“I wasn’t necessarily ready to leave the stage yet,” says Campbell. “But this opportunity was too good to pass up.”

Alexander Campbell and Marianela Nunez Dances at a Gathering at Royal Opera House in 2020. Photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy RAD.

He spoke with Dance Teacher about his long connection to the RAD, what’s special and inspiring about it, and how he keeps his creative juices flowing. 

Tell us about your personal history with the RAD.

I trained at Academy Dance in Sydney, Australia, until I went to the Royal Ballet School at age 16. It was an RAD school and I went all the way through to Advanced 2. My grandmother was an examiner for the RAD, and she would tell me of her travels to Mexico, Hong Kong, the UK, and more, and I thought it was so amazing that I was connected to all these dancers through the RAD syllabus. 

Because of my RAD training, I participated in the Genée [now Fonteyn] competition in 2003. That helped me get my first job at Birmingham Royal Ballet because that’s where [then director] David Bintley first saw me, and I received a silver medal. 

How did your RAD training inform your career?

The RAD syllabus provides an incredible foundation for ballet technique and understanding of dance. This is so important because most companies will expect you to be versatile and excel in a variety of styles. My school in Sydney also provided jazz, character, and contemporary classes, which I think is a great way to enhance and complement ballet training and something I want to support more schools in doing. We’re already on our way with Rambert Grades, a contemporary syllabus widely available as of last year.

What’s your own experience as a teacher?

I’ve taught here and there in the summers, but I see myself more as someone who supports teachers. My wife [Royal Ballet first soloist Claire Calvert] and I started the school Prima Dance in the community where we live in London. There was a local teacher we really liked who wanted to learn the business side, and we wanted to support her. It’s the same idea at RAD—we have teachers here who have been teaching since before I was born. I won’t say that I’m an experienced teacher, but I know what a good teacher looks and feels like. I’m here to learn from them and support them.

Alexander Campbell and Akane Takada in Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House in 2019. Photo by Andrej Uspenski, courtesy RAD.

You’ve cultivated a number of projects outside of your performing career. Will you continue to pursue that?

This role will allow me to still be creative, and I hope to continue producing work through Alexander Campbell Productions. We had success with The Limit, which fused ballet and theater, and Sleepwalker, which featured a differently abled dancer performing in a wheelchair, so I don’t think we’ve seen the last of these types of creations. 

What inspires you about working at RAD?

I’m passionate about providing people with a positive experience of the art form because I had such a positive early experience at my RAD school. Creating that is all in the hands of teachers, and we train them and give them the tools and support they need to teach young children all the way through to adults, with a global reach. I’m responsible for the heartbeat of the organization now—what better place to pursue my passion than here?

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