Dance Studio Owner

RAD’s En Avant Dance Teacher Conference

En Avant Dance Teacher Conference. Photo by F.A.

The inaugural En Avant Dance Teacher Conference, presented by Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Canada, promises to host a myriad of events for dance teachers, studio owners and studio administrators from all dance genres. The four-day event, to be held in Toronto, Canada, from August 20-23, is designed for reputable teachers, choreographers and business owners to share and stimulate ideas, and to promote growth for the conference’s participants. Throughout the long weekend, attendees can enjoy movement sessions, business seminars, an exhibitor hall, a cocktail reception, fashion show, gala dinner and more.

Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin. Photo by Christian Tiger, courtesy of Queensland Ballet.

Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin. Photo by Christian Tiger, courtesy of Queensland Ballet.

Faculty for the En Avant Dance Teacher Conference come from 11 countries and include Emmy-nominated choreographer Stacey Tookey; Marie Walton-Mahon, founder of the Progressing Ballet Technique Programs; master teachers and producers Angela and Steve Sirico; choreographer Menina Fortunato; and many more. Guests also include Karen Kain, artistic director of The National Ballet of Canada, and Li Cunxin, artistic director of Queensland Ballet and subject of the film, Mao’s Last Dancer.

“We believe En Avant is setting an entirely new standard for quality in dance teacher conferences through the breadth and depth of the sessions on offer!” says Clarke MacIntosh, national director of RAD Canada. “In developing En Avant from the ground up, we were wanting to unite leading dance educators in a forum to highlight and clarify professional standards and techniques, especially as dance becomes ever more popular worldwide.”

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, to learn from each other, meet new people and network,” says Cunxin, who will be the event’s keynote speaker and will also teach a master class focusing on ideas such as pirouettes, coordination and weight placement. “The conference will be very educational and valuable for dance educators, teachers, administrators and dancers, as there is such a variety of opportunities for professional development.”

Cunxin, along with Kain and Artistic Director of RAD Lynn Wallis, will also lead a discussion entitled “The Future of Ballet: In Studio and On Stage”, during which they will talk about new choreographic trends, the place of classics in company repertoire and how students’ training in the studio may be affected by developments in professional performances.

A Progressing Ballet Technique teachers' course held at RAD in Sydney. Photo courtesy of Marie Walton-Mahon.

A Progressing Ballet Technique teachers’ course held at RAD in Sydney. Photo courtesy of Marie Walton-Mahon.

Other highlights at En Avant include a session on dealing with difficult parents, offered by a clinical family therapist from the University of Toronto; a discussion on online marketing for dance studios and small-budget businesses; and a session on practical and easy “costume hacks” by off-Broadway costume designer Michelle Bohn.

Dating back to 1920, RAD has made a name for itself as a respectable organization that honors excellence in dance and has created syllabi that are taught worldwide. Many of the faculty of the En Avant conference are RAD-trained and excited to attend the event to pass on what they’ve learned throughout their career to others.

“The RAD syllabus is put together in a way that the student can achieve maximum foundation of one thing before moving on to the next,” Stacey Tookey says, “a coordination of whole body movement all while using excellent musicality…a perfect system of building blocks. I believe my RAD training is the reason I have such a great foundation and technique, as well as a work ethic to strive to achieve my goals in life.”

At En Avant, Tookey will teach movement classes such as contemporary, jazz and contemporary ballet, and will lead lectures on a variety of topics, including “How to train a more expansive yet refined dancer”.

“I hope to add a bit of perspective on how my experience as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and director have affected the way I approach teaching dance,” Tookey adds. “Sharing knowledge is so important to keep our dance community strong, so I am excited to share my advice and inspiration. I am also super excited to gather knowledge and insight from the other incredible faculty there. On top of being a teacher, I love being a student!”

Stacey Tookey. Photo by Steven Haberland.

Stacey Tookey. Photo by Steven Haberland.

Marie Walton-Mahon will tutor attending teachers in all three levels of her Progressing Ballet Technique Programs, allowing teachers to experience the various exercises and relate them to what is learned in ballet class.

“I will discuss the full value of the muscle memory in setting up the students’ proprioception of each movement,” Walton-Mahon adds. “I trust that every teacher who completes my classes at En Avant will understand each component of the Progressing Ballet Technique Program and how to implement this into their school to assist each of their students to reach their personal best.”

Those interested in attending the first En Avant have the option of signing up for a single day pass or an all-access pass (both with special rates for RAD members). The conference’s events will take place at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Toronto and walking distance of many of the city’s other attractions.  

“It’s an honor to be attending En Avant and to have the opportunity to meet dancers, teachers and studio owners from around the world,” Cunxin shares. “I always come away from events such as these inspired by those I’ve met and with lovely new connections in the ballet world.”

For more information on RAD’s En Avant Dance Teacher Conference, including registration details, click here, or contact Event Manager Brenda Stykes at

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): En Avant Dance Teacher Conference. Photo by F.A.

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