Meet the people behind The Fonteyn 2023
A panel of expert and independent judges
Each year we recruit a panel of judges from across the industry, each chosen for their expertise and insight to select the deserving winners of each category. Here's this year's panel! Read more about their amazing careers.
RAD President, Guest principal coach of The Royal Ballet
Dame Darcey Bussell
Darcey Bussell is a former Principal with The Royal Ballet and the most famous British ballerina of her generation. During her nearly 20 years as a Principal, she won worldwide renown for her unique combination of having a tall and athletic physique whilst dancing with soft lyricism.
Darcey trained at The Royal Ballet School and joined the Company in 1988. She was promoted to Principal in 1989, aged just 20, after the premiere of Kenneth MacMillan’s The Prince of the Pagodas, in which she had created the lead role. Darcey retired from the Company in June 2007 with a performance of MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, broadcast live on BBC2. She came out of retirement to dance the ‘Spirit of the Flame’ at the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony.
Darcey’s extensive broadcast work includes being a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, many documentaries for the BBC and she has presented The Royal Ballet’s worldwide cinema relays since 2014. She remains a Guest principal coach at The Royal Ballet and is Artist Laureate of The Royal Ballet School.
Her books include Darcey Bussell: Evolved, Darcey Bussell: A Life in Pictures, the ‘Magic Ballerina’ children’s series and her autobiography. In 2015 she founded DDMIX (diverse dance mix), a dance fitness charity, aimed at getting dance fitness to be part of PE in state schools.
Darcey became the President of the Royal Academy of Dance in 2012.
Photo: Jubal Battisti
Artistic Director of the English National Ballet
Aaron S. Watkin
Born in Canada, Aaron graduated from the National Ballet School of Canada in 1988 and went on to enjoy a full career in dance, beginning with leading classical companies including National Ballet of Canada, English National Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, where he worked his way up from Corps de Ballet to the rank of Soloist.
He was invited by world-renowned choreographer William Forsythe to become a Principal Dancer with Ballett Frankfurt; following this, Watkin went on to join Nacho Duato’s National Dance Company of Spain.
In 2002 Aaron was appointed Associate Artistic Director to Víctor Ullate Ballet in Madrid, Spain. He was a Choreographic Assistant in charge of staging his ballets on dance companies throughout the world, including Kirov Ballet, Paris Opera and Dutch National Ballet, among others. Watkin was Artistic Associate Director of the annual Dance For Life AIDS Benefit Galas at the Cirque Royal Theatre in Brussels, Belgium.
In 2006, Aaron was appointed Artistic Director of the Semperoper Ballett. During his 17-year tenure with the company, he created numerous classical full-length productions including The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker (together with Prof. Jason Beechey) and his own creation of Don Quixote.
In August 2022, Aaron was appointed Artistic Director Designate of English National Ballet and will assume the position of Artistic Director as of August 2023.
Photo: Teresa Walton
Chief Executive, Principal and Artistic Director of Rambert School
Amanda Britton has over 35 years of experience as a dancer, teacher, rehearsal director, mentor and course leader. Having trained at the Rambert Academy, she joined Ballet Rambert in 1984 and she went on to become a leading dancer.
On leaving Rambert she created and performed a number of works with Siobhan Davies Dance Company. After retiring from performance Amanda joined the faculty at London Contemporary Dance School, where alongside a full-time teaching role she completed an MA in Dance Education and Training.
In 2005 Amanda returned to Rambert School as Head of Undergraduate Studies. She was appointed Principal and Artistic Director in July 2015. Since then she has initiated a period of rapid change at the School, including the launch of two new postgraduate programmes, the MA Professional Dance Performance / Rambert2, and MA Dance Research for Professional Practitioners.
Amanda is passionate about widening participation and access to dance for all, and the School’s Learning, Participation and Outreach work has developed rapidly since its outset in 2016. In 2020, Rambert School and Rambert (Company) together launched Rambert Grades, a new contemporary dance syllabus for young people, which aims to develop creativity, expression, and wellbeing through a holistic and inclusive programme of technique, performance practice and creative exploration. The Rambert Grades syllabus is now being rolled out globally.
Guest Choreographer: Valentino Zucchetti
Candidates worked with Valentino Zucchetti, First Soloist and Choreographer for The Royal Ballet, to create a new piece to be performed by all competitors at the final.
Valentino was born in Italy and began training locally at the age of four. He moved subsequently to La Scala Ballet School. At 16 he was offered a scholarship to The Royal Ballet School. He won the 2006 Genée International Ballet Competition and was awarded RAD Solo Seal in 2007. He also created a role in Christopher Hampson’s Three Dialogues for the school’s annual matinee.
On graduation, Valentino joined Zürich Ballet, moving to Norwegian National Ballet in 2009 and The Royal Ballet in 2010. He was promoted to First Artist in 2011, Soloist in 2012 and First Soloist in 2014. His repertory with The Royal Ballet includes Principal roles in the classics and works by Acosta, Ashton, Balanchine, Branstrup, Cranko, Dawson, Forsythe, MacMillan, Marriott, Scarlett and Wheeldon.
Valentino won the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award in 2005. He choreographed Sonata for Six for The Royal Ballet School’s 2013 matinee, and regularly creates pieces for The Royal Ballet’s Draft Works. In 2013 he choreographed Orbital Motion for New English Ballet Theatre and in 2021 created Anemoi for The Royal Ballet which was performed on the main stage of the Royal Opera House.
Photo: Andrej Uspenski
Photo: Martin Bell
At the end of day 3 of the semi-finals held at the Royal Academy of Dance headquarters, the finalists were announced. Click here to learn about the talented dancers selected to compete in the final at His Majesty's Theatre on Sunday 29 October.
A world class faculty to coach our candidates
Meet our producer and the coaches that worked with all candidates during The Fonteyn week. Classes and coaching sessions are compulsory and took place from Sunday 22 October to Tuesday 24 October at RAD Headquarters in London.
Guest Performance at the final:
Born in Bristol, Caspar began ballet lessons at age four at the Bristol School of Dancing. He became a Junior Associate of The Royal Ballet School and in 2015, joined the School’s full-time training at White Lodge, progressing to the Upper School in 2020. He graduated in 2023, and joined The Royal Ballet as an Aud Jebsen Young Dancer at the start of the 2023/24 Season. During his time at the School, he was awarded the April Olrich Award for Dynamic Performance, the Gailene Stock Award for Exceptional Progress and the London Ballet Circle Dame Ninette Award for Most Outstanding Male Graduate. In his graduating performances, he danced featured roles in Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour, Jiří Kylián’s Sechs Tänze, and the solo Takademe by Robert Battle.
Photo: Amber Hunt