The Royal Ballet School appoints new CEO

Patrick Harrison. Photography by ASH.
Patrick Harrison. Photography by ASH.

The Royal Ballet School has appointed Patrick Harrison as its first full-time Chief Executive Officer. 

Joining the School from English National Ballet, Harrison will oversee the organisation’s continued evolution as it approaches its historic centenary in 2026. He will join The Royal Ballet School later this year.

The decision to appoint a full-time CEO was made in January this year, following the news that Artistic Director and CEO Christopher Powney was stepping down at the end of the academic year after a decade in post. The School said, “The continued development of the School and the scope of our ambition demonstrate to us that the positions of CEO and Artistic Director should be two distinct roles for the foreseeable future.”

Harrison has been Executive Director at English National Ballet since 2016, where he has led an organisation at the forefront of dance, growing its global reputation and connection with audiences. He oversaw the Company’s move to a new purpose-built home and its response to the pandemic. Harrison previously performed the same role at Cambridge Arts Theatre and before this was Director of Commercial Operations at the National Theatre, where he oversaw the development of commercial and audience experience provision as part of the £80m NTFuture project, growing the National Theatre’s trading company to an annual turnover of £13m.

Harrison is a Trustee of Battersea Arts Centre and chairs its Enterprises Board. He has also volunteered with other smaller arts organisations, providing advice and support on commercial opportunities, operations, and capital projects.

Harrison said of his appointment, “I’m thrilled to join The Royal Ballet School at such an exciting time in its evolution. I look forward to working with the Board of Governors and the School’s highly dedicated and skilled senior management team and staff to deliver the School’s vision for the future, and further unlock its potential as an internationally renowned cultural institution and a world leader in the training and education of extraordinary young people.”

The School’s Interim Chairman, Anna Birkett, said, “We’re delighted to welcome Patrick to the School. His experience, expertise, and passion for the arts make him an exemplary candidate for leading the School’s journey to its centenary and placing it on a sustainable footing, both artistically and financially, into its next century.”

The search for The Royal Ballet School’s new Artistic Director is now in its advanced stages, and the School hopes to announce the chosen candidate shortly.  

The Royal Ballet School also reports that its Chairman, Christopher Rodrigues CBE, who has recently been acting as interim CEO, has advised the Governors that, for medical reasons, he does not feel able to return to his role as Chair as was intended once the full-time CEO was appointed. He has now stepped down, and Interim Chairman Anna Birkett will continue in post until a replacement is appointed. 

Rodrigues joined The Royal Ballet School as Chairman in January 2020. In January 2023, he was invited to take a second term to the end of the School’s centenary year in 2026. However, after considering the progression of his Parkinson’s condition, Rodrigues has decided the time is right to appoint a new Chair.

During his four-year tenure, Rodrigues steered the School and its team through the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. He initiated the transition to a strategy to ensure the School’s artistic and financial sustainability into its second century.  

He has supported the School’s philanthropic fundraising and overseen a restructure of the School’s governance while adding new governors with the skills needed to support the School in the rapidly changing worlds of education and dance training. 

Rodrigues said, “It is with a heavy heart that I am stepping down early from this world-class school. Our students never fail to make me proud of their extraordinary skills and energise me with their commitment and enthusiasm. I look back on my years as Chair with real pleasure — not least because of the support I have had from staff and governors alike.” 

Interim Chairman Anna Birkett said, “The School has been privileged to have Rodrigues as its Chair through one of the most challenging periods in its history. With his vast business insight, experience, and lifelong passion for and connection to the ballet, Rodrigues has led the School’s Board and supported its staff and students with great diligence, devotion and skill. We extend our gratitude for his hard work and all he has achieved.”

The son of two former Royal Ballet dancers, the late Julia Farron and Alfred Rodrigues, Rodrigues brought to The Royal Ballet School a deep-seated admiration for classical ballet artists and a profound understanding of the unique pressures of a career in ballet. He enjoyed a long and successful international career in business. He acted as Chair of numerous major UK institutions, including the British Council, the Almeida Theatre, Visit Britain and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 

In 2007, he was awarded his CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to British business interests and charitable works in the UK and USA. 

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