Welcoming Sarah Kundi to The Royal Ballet School’s Artistic staff
Following a flourishing 19-year performance career, Sarah Kundi has joined The Royal Ballet School’s Artistic staff as a ballet teacher across White Lodge and Upper School. Sarah is joined by three fellow new Artistic teachers, Larissa Bamber, James Butcher, and Stuart Cassidy.
Sarah attended Central School of Ballet and later began her professional career with Northern Ballet. She went on to dance with Ballet Black and English National Ballet, where she held the position of First Artist. After nine years with the Company, Sarah joined The Royal Ballet School to pursue her passion for teaching and nurturing the next generation of young dancers.
We spoke with Sarah about her visions and aspirations for her new role, and how it feels to be back in the studio:
What were you doing before joining the School?
I just finished a 19-year performing career. I trained at Central School of Ballet, then went to Northern Ballet for four years, Ballet Black for five years, and then took a year out to discover my teaching. The ironic thing about that was on the day I graduated from The Royal Ballet School’s Diploma of Dance Teaching course last year, it was exactly ten years to the day from when I taught my very first ballet class! I did my teacher training course while I was with English National Ballet for nine years, and that was an amazing time; being amongst such incredible artists and working under Tamara (Rojo) was a wonderful experience.
How did you first start out as a dancer? What do you remember about your early experiences with dance training?
I think my younger sister must have seen ballet on the TV and was adamant that she wanted to go to lessons, so my mum found a local dance school. Obviously, I was the elder sister and was made to go with my younger sister, and I just took to it like a fish to water.
I don’t have any real distinct memories from first starting, but I do remember one of my teachers, Rebecca, who was divine. I remember she was all about sensations and feeling things, so she made it fun and stimulating, even before all the new kinds of strategies to teach in different ways existed. She already seemed quite far ahead of her time in terms of allowing young people to understand the sensation, and it’s not about being in front of a mirror; she made it more fun and relatable to real life and being a human.
What are some of the highlights of your dancing and teaching career?
My highlight was passing and getting through my Diploma of Dance Teaching; that was really fulfilling, and I learned so much. But of course, the big highlight is this job.
Dancing specific, I’d say getting my first job at Northern Ballet. Your first job is always special. I remember I got nominated for a Critics Circle National Dance Award back in 2009, and that was another nice highlight. It was my first year at Ballet Black, and it was nice to be recognised for what you can bring to the industry and your work. Getting a job at English National Ballet was another big highlight because it was a big dream. There, I was awarded the Corps de Ballet award in my second year; the award acknowledges someone in the corps de ballet, or the first artist rank, where someone’s gone above and beyond the duty of corps de ballet, who is helpful, kind, and embodies team spirit. Also, getting my promotion at English National Ballet was another highlight.
Outside of your career, what are you particularly proud of?
I’m proud of my family, my husband and the life I have outside; I try to make it really balanced. I have two nieces that I absolutely adore, and I’m so proud of them. Every time I see them, no time with them is ever enough, and I can’t wait to watch them grow and evolve into beautiful young women.
How do you feel about your new role?
It’s very exciting! It’s something that ever since I knew I wanted to teach full-time, I wanted to have a place in a vocational setting to have my year group and follow them through. I feel blessed because I’ve had this one job where I’ve had an amazing performing career for 19 years with many different companies, and that was one dream job, and then I’ve got another dream job, which is something that I never really expected.
What are you most excited about in your new role at the School?
I’m looking forward to seeing these girls through, and they are such a gorgeous group. To hone them, nurture them, encourage them, support them, and get them to be the best they can be. I hope they will take something away from my teachings and go forward into next year with confidence.
What will you bring to The Royal Ballet School?
I think I’ll bring all my experiences. I’ve had a very different journey. I’ve not been Royal Ballet School trained and not danced at the Company, but I bring a whole set of skills and tools that I’ve collectively honed in myself through my journey, where I’ve danced, and the people I’ve worked with.
But also in terms of the holistic way of teaching. I’ve trained and danced in some very toxic environments. I don’t want that for these students because you don’t sustain excellence through intimidation and fear; you get it through support and encouragement – and that’s The Royal Ballet School teaching ethos. I can bring that to the table, making sure their needs and learning are a top priority and supporting that as much as I can because it’s vital.
What would you say are things that today’s dancers might need to be aware of when they’re starting out? And could you give any advice?
It’s a tough industry, and it’s not getting any easier. There’s so much competition, and it’s getting better; the students are getting better. My advice would be to stay resilient, be patient, put in hard work, dedication and persistence. Having that end goal and just staying focused. I think dreams can come true, but you have to put the work in as well. Most importantly, do not compare yourself to others as everyone’s on their own journey. I understand it can be difficult when there’s added peer pressure, but you just have to trust your unique journey and own your path
Have you got anything else coming up outside of your work at the School?
This will be the first Christmas I have had off since I can remember. I was always dancing through Christmas and Nutcracker season, so I am excited to enjoy the festivities and the run-up to Christmas. From a stage perspective, it’s lovely to have time off for yourself and enjoy the family-type things and the festivities.