Founded almost 100 years ago, The Royal Ballet School has produced generations of iconic dancers, including Margot Fonteyn and Darcey Bussell.
Although places on The Royal Ballet School’s full-time training course in London are highly coveted, the School believes that creative dance education should be accessible to all.
To broaden access to dance education, The Royal Ballet School launched the Primary Steps Programme in 2006. Through this programme, primary school children in England and Wales can discover the joy of ballet in their local area.
Raising The Barre for Dance Education
The advantages of teaching children dance are well understood, with research demonstrating its many physiological and psychological benefits. The Royal Ballet School understands that dance is an essential tool that can enrich children’s well-being and curriculum learning.
By extension, the Primary Steps Programme has introduced thousands of primary school students to ballet. Primary Steps nurtures children’s talents through after-school classes and performance opportunities.
The programme also helps participants and their families discover further dance pathways. Primary Steps connects young dancers to local and national dance infrastructure. Graduates of the programme have pursued pre-vocational and vocational studies at:
- The Royal Ballet School, London.
- Elmhurst Ballet School, Birmingham.
- Moorland International Ballet Academy, Clitheroe.
- The Lowry, Salford.
- The Place, London.
- Swindon Dance.
- Dance4, Nottingham.
- DanceEast, Ipswich.
Primary Steps acts as a springboard for many talented students who wish to pursue formal dance training. But the programme also offers children a fun space to explore the art form and socialise. Primary Steps graduates note that the programme helped them make new friends and grow in confidence.
Creative Ballet Education for Students in Years 3 to 6
The Primary Steps Programme caters to children aged 7 to 11 (school Years 3 to 6). Students at participating schools benefit from the programme’s two parts: autumn term workshops and weekly after-school classes.
1. Autumn Term Workshops
Primary Steps runs a continuing professional development (CPD) day for Year 3 teachers in the autumn term of the academic year. This CPD day takes place at The Royal Ballet School. In addition, the teachers’ students take part in five creative ballet workshops. Led by specialist instructors, the autumn workshops can contribute to Arts Award Discover.
Participating schools then receive:
- Five creative ballet workshops for all Year 3 children.
- CPD and resource materials to support further dance classes.
- An interactive ballet training demonstration with Royal Ballet School students.
2. Weekly After-School Classes
Selected Year 3 students from participating schools go on to attend weekly creative ballet classes. The classes take place at a local host secondary school and are an ideal medium for Arts Award Explore. Students can attend classes up to the age of 11.
For a small fee, participants receive:
- Weekly creative dance classes. Taught by Royal Ballet School teachers, the classes also feature live musical accompaniment.
- Dance shoes and uniform.
- Chances to see Royal Ballet School students training and performances from professional dancers.
- Trips to local and regional dance companies.
- Opportunities to perform at The Royal Ballet School and locally.
Making Dance Accessible in England and Wales
The Primary Steps Programme allows children in England and Wales to access a high-quality dance education in their local area. The programme partners with national dance agencies and secondary schools to target regions of economic, social, and cultural diversity.
Funded in part by the Department for Education, the programme operates in 34 primary schools (28 in England and 6 in Wales) and 6 centres in Blackpool, Bury St Edmunds, Cardiff, Dagenham, Mansfield, and Swindon.
Primary Steps works with Highfurlong School, The Lowry, and the following primary schools in Blackpool:
- Revoe Learning Academy.
- Boundary Primary School.
- Anchorsholme Academy.
- Bispham Endowed Church of England Primary.
- Layton Primary.
2. Bury St Edmunds
Primary Steps works with DanceEast, King Edward VI School, and the following primary schools in Bury St Edmunds:
- Hardwick Primary.
- Guildhall Feoffment Community Primary.
- Sexton’s Manor Primary.
- Tollgate Primary.
- Westgate Community Primary.
- Howard Community Primary.
Primary Steps works with Rubicon Dance and the following primary schools in Cardiff:
● Ysgol Glan Morfa.
- Moorland Primary.
- Adamsdown Primary.
- Tredegarville C.W. Primary.
- Baden Powell Primary.
- Stacey Primary.
Primary Steps works with Trinity Laban, The Place, Dagenham Park Church of England School, and the following primary schools in Dagenham:
- William Ford Church of England Junior.
- Beam County Primary.
- John Perry Primary.
- Godwin Primary.
- Marsh Green Primary.
Primary Steps works with Dance4, Manor Academy, and the following primary schools in Mansfield:
- Forest Town Primary.
- Birklands Primary.
- Farmilo Primary.
- The Flying High Academy — Ladybrook.
- Heatherley Primary.
- Peafield Lane Academy.
- Northfield Primary.
Primary Steps works with Swindon Dance and the following primary schools in Swindon:
- Lainesmead Primary.
- Tregoze Primary.
- Lawn Primary.
- Mountford Manor Primary.
- Lethbridge Primary.
Primary Steps on Demand
To expand the scope of the Primary Steps Programme beyond England and Wales, The Royal Ballet School now offers Primary Steps on Demand. Primary Steps on Demand offers primary schools worldwide a complete dance programme from the experienced Royal Ballet School team.
The flexible, online programme is available through the School’s video-on-demand platform. Primary Steps on Demand is available from £3 per student, and teachers don’t need any dance teaching experience to implement the programme.
The programme includes:
- Video classes covering cross-curricular themes and core concepts of movement in ballet.
- Movement guides, such as warm-ups and cool-downs.
- Lesson plans and tutorials for teachers.
- Resources for students.
- CPD webinars and live virtual workshops.
Almost 20 Years of Primary Steps
For almost two decades, Primary Steps has increased accessibility to creative dance education in the UK. Alongside its workshops and classes, the programme provides opportunities to experience dance creation and performance. It also connects students and their families to regional dance infrastructure.
By leveraging The Royal Ballet School’s unique resources and expertise, Primary Steps also supports dance teaching in participating schools.
Through the Primary Steps Programme, The Royal Ballet School demonstrates the impact of creative dance on curriculum enrichment and learning through movement. Children who take part in the programme can enjoy enhanced health, well-being, and academic and social skills. Some may even become the world’s next ballet stars.
Learn more about The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps Programme.
About The Royal Ballet School
Established in 1926, The Royal Ballet School is one of the world’s most prestigious dance schools. Former students include Anya Linden, Kenneth MacMillan, Lauren Cuthbertson, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Full-time students train in London for up to eight years. They pursue their dance and academic studies with support from the pastoral team and Healthy Dancer Programme. Many graduates go on to work at The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and top global dance companies.
The Royal Ballet School is on a mission to broaden access to ballet and creative dance. Its Training and Access programme offers a range of dance and teacher training programmes. Young dancers can participate in Primary Steps, the Associate Programme, and Intensive Courses.