The renowned Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) training organization recently announced the appointment of a new CEO, Tim Arthur. Formally the CEO of Time Out magazine, and Virgin Money before that, Arthur has had, as he puts it, “a peculiar, fun career working in lots of different fields.”
Headquartered in the UK, the RAD serves dance teachers and students across 85 countries, including the U.S., making the role of CEO an immense but exciting task. But why would a leader from the media and finance industries be interested in heading a dance organization? Well, surprisingly, Arthur’s career actually started within the performing arts!
“I started off with my own drama school,” he explains. “I then went into playwriting and directing, then went into the media with Time Out and then went into banking at Virgin Money. It’s not your average career path!”
So how did he end up, full circle, back in performing arts education?
“When I came out of Virgin Money, it was a time for me to reassess what was really important to me and what I wanted to do,” Arthur shares. “I wanted to go back to something that was arts-based, but also made a difference to people’s lives; that had a transformational element to it. I’ve always felt that interacting with the arts improves people’s lives. It makes them healthy, and makes them happy, it helps them connect to each other and to themselves. The more I looked at the Royal Academy of Dance, the more amazing I thought the organization was. I didn’t actually realize the scale of it! I didn’t realize that it was in so many countries around the world. I didn’t realize the range of activities. It just blew me away and the more I got involved with it, the more excited I got.”
Having learned ballet, tap and modern as a child, and then running a drama school, that also taught dance and singing, Arthur understands what it’s like for dance teachers and studio owners — the pressures, the juggle of being a teacher and an entrepreneur, inspiring young minds, dealing with parents, keeping kids safe, and the like.
“There’s lots in my background I’ve learned over the years. So I went, ‘You know what? I could really make a difference here. I could really apply a lot of the different knowledge I’ve gained from different sectors to help the RAD over the next period of time,’” he assures. “It’s an unexpected turn for me, but the more I’ve looked at it, the more of a dream job it is.”
Arthur is also excited about the perks of a role back in the performing arts sector.
“When I got offered the job and they were going through the contract, it stipulated that I have to go to the first night of all the shows of The Royal Ballet. I couldn’t believe that was actually part of my contract! How amazing! Part of my job is to go and see something I love,” he shares with palpable enthusiasm.
With a strong legacy of 102 years of excellence in dance education, Arthur has much to build on for the future of the RAD, with an open mind and open heart.
“I didn’t come into the job with any set of assumptions or with a plan,” he says. “I came just with a lot of passion and excitement, understanding the huge potential and the amazing legacy to build on. I think the key for the RAD is that it keeps its core vision and mission, and that’s to inspire the world to dance; it’s to be a world leader in dance education.”
But Arthur won’t stop there; he wants to build on that strong foundation with a real emphasis on inclusion, saying, “I believe dance is for everybody.” He hopes to broaden the RAD’s appeal and to foster a love of dance in all, asking, “How can we bring people from all different backgrounds and abilities into dance? How we can continue to inspire them, so they become the next generation of dancers, or people who are passionate about dance?”
Arthur also outlines an interest in dance therapy and wellness going forward. “How do we approach dance as part of our well-being and see that as a really core aspect of what we do?” he asks. “I think dance is one of the most unique art forms with its combination of physical and mental health benefits. We need to be thinking of that as we build our RAD programs out. How is well-being at the forefront of what we do?”
But how can the RAD achieve such lofty goals, inspiring excellence, artistry, wellness and wider appreciation for dance? Arthur feels that the secret is the RAD members, and listening to what is important to them — what they need, want and envision.
“I want to build a really customer-centric RAD,” he says. “That means that I need to listen to what the members really want, and to what our students need from us. I’m just really open to listening, learning and absorbing as much information as possible. Then building a strategy for the future together, collaboratively coming up with a vision and a strategy for the RAD that I think hopefully will make our members proud. I’m excited about what we can achieve together.”
By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.