Welcoming Stuart Cassidy to The Royal Ballet School’s Artistic Staff
We welcomed Stuart Cassidy to The Royal Ballet School’s Artistic Staff at Upper School this academic year. Stuart, who is an alumnus of the School, is one of four new ballet teachers who have joined the School across White Lodge and Upper School.
Stuart has a long history with the School, having joined the Junior Associate programme at Baron’s Court before joining White Lodge. After progressing to Upper School, he joined The Royal Ballet in 1987 and was promoted to Principal within four years, performing in renowned roles including Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Siegfried in Swan Lake, and the Prince in The Nutcracker. In 1999 he left the company to join K Ballet in Tokyo, where he performed for over twenty years. After retiring from performing, Stuart has dedicated his career to teaching.
We spoke with Stuart about his new position at The Royal Ballet School and how it feels to have come full circle.
Can you tell me what you were doing before joining the School?
Immediately before this, because of COVID, I had to rethink and retrain, and I trained as an estate agent. It was very different from ballet; as a teacher, you’re talking and getting your ideas across, but very different when dealing with houses!
How did you first start out as a dancer? What do you remember about your early experiences with dance training?
I started out at a very small school in Tunbridge Wells. I started with a lady called Irene Kinsey, who used to be in The Royal Ballet, and her daughter is Rosalind Eyre, the former ballet mistress of The Royal Ballet.
I went along there when I was five years old because my sister was doing ballet, and I used to sit in the changing room fidgeting, so eventually, I asked if I could join in. I joined in, and apparently, I was good at it, so Miss Kinsey suggested I audition for the Junior Associate Programme. I did JAs for a year at Baron’s Court, and they said why don’t you audition for White Lodge? Again, I just said I’d have a go, and I got in and went all the way through White Lodge, got into Upper School, and then through into the Company. It was a weird set of circumstances that all linked in with The Royal Ballet, from my teacher to her daughter and then all the way through to The Royal Ballet.
Would you say the best advice you were given when you were training?
I’ll never forget Patricia Linton, who was my first teacher when I was at White Lodge. I wouldn’t say there’s any specific advice she gave me, but just the way she treated us and the way she nurtured us, it was very special.
I think the best bit of advice is to be yourself. You don’t want to copy anyone else; you want to be genuine and be yourself, so then your personality and interpretation can come through. It’s no good copying what anyone else does.
What are some of the highlights of your dancing or teaching career?
One of the highlights was being picked by Sir Kenneth Macmillan to perform Romeo in my second year in the Company. He’d seen my school performance and thought I would be suitable. While I was still in the corps de ballet, I was picked out and was performing Romeo. It’s still my favourite ballet to this day, and I think for that reason, it was very special to be picked at such a young age. But that was the springboard for me; everything just took off from there.
Outside of your career, what else are you particularly proud of?
My family. I am very proud of my wife and what she has achieved because there were a lot of sacrifices made when I left The Royal Ballet and started working in Japan. She was at home with our two boys and looking after them while I was away performing. I am also proud of my two boys and what they’ve achieved.
What are you most excited about in your new role at the School?
Learning. I am the teacher, but learning is a key thing for me, and soaking that up like a sponge and making sure I’m the best teacher I can be, not just relying on the knowledge I have. I am trying to expand my knowledge and learn from all the other teachers and students because everyone has a fresh perspective on things.
What will you bring to The Royal Ballet School?
Things have moved on with ballet and technique, but I plan to bring my knowledge of The Royal Ballet School and Company. I’ve been there, I’ve done it, through the School and Company at every level, from age nine as a Junior Associate through to the end of my career. It is all based on this place. I hope to be able to give as much of the learnings I got from all my coaches and amazing choreographers I learned from.
I met Dame Ninette de Valois and spoke with her, and she gave me her autograph. I worked with Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth Macmillan. The people I worked with going through the School and the Company; it’s a wealth of knowledge, and it all sticks. Being able to impart that knowledge and enhance other people’s paths into their careers is a nice position to be in.
What would you say are things that today’s dancers need to be aware of when they’re starting out? Could you give any advice to young dancers starting their journey?
Be adaptable. You have to slot in and be moulded by whoever takes you on as a dancer. Be a sponge; take on and absorb everything. But then you have to learn what is best for you from all that knowledge you get because not everything works for everybody. You’ve got to be selective, but you’ve got to be a sponge. It’s being very clever with all that information.
What else have you got coming up outside of your work at the School?
The most exciting thing for me coming up to Christmas is my son from New Zealand is going to come to the UK to visit. I’m also looking forward to exploring the UK more and seeing things closer to home.