29 April 2014 at 5.51pm | 3 Comments
Gailene Stock (1946–2014) was Director of The Royal Ballet School 1999–2014. During her tenure Stock oversaw major developments within the School that not only affirmed its position as one of the world's top centres of dance education but also realized the vision of The Royal Ballet's founder, Dame Ninette de Valois, that School and Company should go hand-in-hand.
Stock was born in Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, and started dancing at the age of four. Her desire to dance was beset by early tragedies: she contracted polio aged eight and spent 18 months in an iron frame; and aged 14 was seriously injured in a car accident when a cement lorry hit her father's car.
Through immense determination Stock returned to dance and won the Royal Academy of Dance 1962 overseas scholarship. That year Dame Peggy van Praagh chose her to be the youngest foundation member of the newly formed Australian Ballet, and Stock deferred her scholarship to join the company.
Stock was given a year's leave of absence 1963–4 to take up her RAD scholarship at The Royal Ballet School, at the end of which she was invited to join The Royal Ballet. She chose instead to return to Australian Ballet and went on to dance with the company around the world. Stock also appeared frequently on television, perhaps most notably in Rudolf Nureyev's film of Don Quixote.
Stock joined the National Ballet of Canada in 1974 and in 1976 moved to The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The following year she returned to Australian Ballet with her husband, fellow Australian dancer Gary Norman. Stock retired from dance after the birth of their daughter, Lisa, in May 1978.
In 1979 Stock was appointed Director of the National Theatre Ballet School in Victoria, and went on to work as a teacher, director and administrator for companies and schools around Australia, New Zealand and Canada. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1997 and in 1998 became the first Australian representative on the Executive and Artistic Committees of the Royal Academy of Dance in London.
In 1999 she took over from Merle Park as Director of The Royal Ballet School. Her many developments to the curriculum included placing a greater emphasis on contemporary dance and pas de deux, introducing a third year into the Upper School to allow students to manage their studies with overseas auditions, furthering the School's touring opportunities, expanding the choreographic course and re-introducing a teachers’ course for professional dancers and a teacher exchange programme.
During Stock's tenure the School underwent major structural developments, including the transferral of the Upper School from Baron's Court to Covent Garden in 2003, a £22m redevelopment of the Lower School at White Lodge in Richmond Park, completed in 2009, and the building of new accommodation for Upper School students in 2010.
Under Stock's leadership, the employment of graduates rose from 48% on her arrival to between 95% and 100%, a number which has been sustained for the last seven years. She was an inspirational figure at the School and will be much missed.