• Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) unveils winning portrait following nation-wide competition launched to celebrate opening of brand-new global headquarters.
  • Visual artist Zi Ling created her winning artwork after being selected as the winner of the portrait competition from 60 entries across the UK.
  • Artists were asked to capture the likeness of founding RAD President and ballet pioneer Dame Adeline Genée, with the aim of celebrating her legacy to modern British ballet.
  • Chief Executive Tim Arthur alongside RAD President and competition panel judge Dame Darcey Bussell, were on hand to help unveil the work. 

8 September 2022: Today, the Royal Academy of Dance unveiled the winning artwork commissioned as the winner of the nation-wide portrait competition launched to celebrate the opening of its brand-new global headquarters earlier this year. 

With over 60 proposals submitted, each capturing the likeness of founding RAD President Dame Adeline Genée; a judging panel of singer song-writer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, royal portraitist Ralph Heimans and Shevelle Dynott, former English National Ballet Dancer alongside RAD President Dame Darcey Bussell awarded artist Zi Ling the top prize for her bold, contemporary interpretation of one of ballet’s foremost pioneers. 

Sponsored by historic dance shoemakers Freed of London, the competition was created to honour Dame Adeline’s extraordinary contribution to modern British ballet. The brand-new 150 x 120cm portrait titled Drops of Morning Dew Fell on her Feet will now permanently hang in reception at the RAD’s global headquarters; allowing her portrait to be seen and admired by RAD staff, teachers and the thousands of dancers that will pass through the prestigious dance institution for generations to come.   

Founded in 1920 as the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain, the RAD brought together five of the greatest dance professionals across the principal schools of ballet training (French, Italian, Russian, Danish and British) to form a committee for the reformation of dance teaching in the UK. Formed of world-renowned dancers Adeline Genée, Phyllis Bedells, Lucia Cormani and Tamara Karsavina, as well as Edouard Espinosa; the group was tasked to devise a syllabus to form the foundation for a new British standard. 

Today, the RAD is a world leader in dance education and training across the globe. At the heart of the RAD’s work is the belief in the transformative power of dance to enrich, empower, and improve lives. The organisation firmly believes that everyone should have the opportunity to learn to dance, and as a result strives towards building lasting relationships with the local community and to deliver their work globally on a larger scale.  

Winning artist Zi Ling says: “Dancers are always my favourite subjects and I have been inspired by many great dancers, such as Pina Bausch and Rudolf Nureyev, for their talents of using their bodies as canvas. I am absolutely thrilled by being given this unique opportunity to bring Dame Adeline Genée, this legendary figure back to life, and hopefully encourage younger generations of the RAD to continue her legacy”.

Tim Arthur, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Dance says “Zi Ling’s vibrant painting really captures the essence of our founding member Dame Adeline Genée and will serve as a daily reminder of her extraordinary contribution to the teaching of ballet for generations to come. What better way to mark this exciting new chapter in the RAD’s history than with a new portrait that celebrates the opening of London’s newest home of dance”

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE, President, Royal Academy of Dance says: “I am delighted to unveil this strikingly modern artwork from artist Zi Ling, representing a real homecoming for Dame Adeline who will now take pride of place in the new RAD global headquarters. Chosen as the winner from competition entries received up and down the UK – it was Zi’s proposal that really captured that sense of movement and impressed the judging panel with her bold use of colour.”

Sophie Smith, Senior Manager at Freed of London says: “Freed of London are thrilled to have been involved in this project.  Zi Ling’s portrait gives Dame Adeline Genée a renewed visibility and relevance for today’s RAD visitors and dancers.  This modern interpretation cements her vital role in the development of British Ballet as we know it today.”




Media contacts: 

For further information, images or interview requests please contact: 

Kallaway PR
T: +44 (0)7867 335 242


Notes to Editors


About the Royal Academy of Dance

Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is one of the most influential dance education and training organisations in the world with a strong global membership in 85 countries.  Established in 1920 to improve standards and re-invigorate dance training, the Academy helps and encourages its teachers to perfect their teaching skills and pass on this knowledge to their students. There are currently over 1,000 students in full-time or part-time teacher training programmes with the Academy and each year the examination syllabus is taught to thousands of young people worldwide, with around a quarter of a million pupils per year going on to take RAD exams 

About Freed of London

Freed of London is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of professional dance shoes. With an extensive history dating back to 1929, Freed of London shoes are hand crafted in the UK and today the Freed of London portfolio includes dance apparel, bridal and fashion collections.

From humble beginnings in London’s West End, Freed of London was founded by cobbler Frederick Freed in 1929. Working from a basement in Covent Garden, the same site where the brand’s flagship store now stands, Mr Freed and his wife revolutionised the dance shoe industry by tailoring shoes to a dancer’s individual needs. To this day this philosophy remains, and Freed of London shoes continue to be made by hand in the UK. 

About winning artist Zi Ling

Zi Ling is a visual artist based in Bath. She was born to the Chinese painter HuiTao Lin, a pioneer of the 85 New Wave Movement.  

She has studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Chelsea College of Arts and Central Academy of Fine Arts China. 

Her work of etchings, watercolours, drawings, video art and mixed medium have been displayed at many prestigious venues and exhibitions. Her artwork has been permanently collected by the National Art Museum of China. She received the President’s Choice Award RI (2022), the Richard Plincke RI Prize (2021), Cass Art Prize (2019), DAC Beachcroft Space Prize (2018), Frank Herring Easel Award (2018), First Prize of Leathersellers Award (2016), and the Rosemary & Co. Prize (2015) from the Princess Michael of Kent.

She is a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. 

About Ralph Heimans

British-Australian artist Ralph Heimans (b.1970 is one of today’s leading royal portrait artists. His official Diamond Jubilee portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth is in the collection of Westminster Abbey, while his portraits of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (2017) and HRH The Prince of Wales (2018) are in the Royal Collection. 

His large-scale portraits are renowned for their innovative compositions that offer engaging narratives about his subjects and their life stories. His sitters include extraordinary individuals who have made a significant contribution in the fields of arts, academia, law, business, and philanthropy. Their portrayals are informed by a creative integration of subject and context. Figures are placed in complex spatial arrangements, underpinned by an innovative use of geometry, reflection and perspective. His technical approach pays homage to the 17th Century masters of chiaroscuro, exploiting exquisite effects of light, which appear to illuminate the inner world of his subjects. 

Heimans’ works are held in major international collections including The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, The Royal Collection, Westminster Abbey, The National Portrait Gallery of Australia, The National History Museum of Denmark, Australia’s Parliament House and The European Court in Luxembourg. In 2014 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for services to portraiture.  

About Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Sophie Ellis-Bextor shot to fame as a vocalist on Spiller's huge number one single, ‘Groovejet’ and her worldwide smash hit, ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’. Her debut solo album, ‘Read My Lips’, was released in 2001 and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. Her subsequent album releases include ‘Shoot from the Hip’ (2003), ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ (2007) and ‘Make a Scene’ (2011). In 2014, Sophie released her album ‘Wanderlust’ on her own label EBGB’s, which was co-written and produced by Ed Harcourt. It proved to be a critical and commercial success spending 3 weeks in the UK top 10 and selling over 100,000 copies.

Sophie followed this release and collaboration with 2016's ‘Familia’, which saw her return to the dancefloor with her single ‘Come With Us’. In January of 2019, with Ed Harcourt as Producer and Amy Langley (of Dirty Pretty Strings) arranging, Sophie released orchestrated versions of all her hits and past single releases with her orchestral greatest hits album ‘The Song Diaries’. In 2020, her Kitchen Discos, performed at home during lockdown with her five sons and recorded by her husband, musician Richard Jones, were watched and enjoyed by 40 million around the world. Following the performances, she released her latest album ‘Songs From The Kitchen Disco’ in late 2020 on Cooking Vinyl, bringing together Sophie’s hits with many other songs from her phenomenally successful lockdown Kitchen Disco performances, garnering further critical acclaim and yet another top 10 UK album chart position.

About Shevelle Dynott

Shevelle Dynott was born in London and started dancing aged seven when he was spotted at his Brixton primary school by scouts for 'Chance to Dance', a scheme which aimed to scout talented inner-city children and expand ballet's reach beyond its traditionally white middle-class base. In 1997, he was the first child to complete the 'Chance to Dance' training and be accepted on the Royal Ballet School's Junior Associates programme. In 2004 Shevelle won a bronze medal in the RAD’s Genée International Ballet Competition (now The Fonteyn) and upon completing his training in 2005, Dynott joined the English National Ballet as a company artist and has appeared in numerous productions: Akram Khan’s Giselle Nureyev’ s Romeo and Juliet Macmillan’s Sleeping Beauty. Shevelle is now a freelance artist and has recently completed a 7-month acting course at identity school of acting in Brixton.  

About Dame Darcey Bussell, OBE

Darcey Bussell is a former Principal with The Royal Ballet and the most famous British ballerina of her generation. During her nearly twenty 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: EvolvedDarcey 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.