KAREN DONOVAN A.R.A.D.
Born in Rockhampton, Queensland, I studied ballet at the Valeria Hansen Academy of Dancing from the age of four for twelve years, achieving Honours for all my Royal Academy of Dancing ballet exams and being awarded my Solo Seal. Over the twelve years spent there I also studied tap, jazz, contemporary, Scottish and Irish dancing.
In 1978 I started two years of training at the Royal Ballet School in London winning the Bronze Medal in the Adeline Genee Competition in 1979. In my Graduation Performance at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden the following year I danced one of the three lead roles (Gypsy Girl) in Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Two Pigeons and also performed a Pas de Deux from Bournonville’s Flower Festival at Genzano.
In 1980 I was accepted into Sadlers’ Wells Royal Ballet (SWRB) – now Birmingham Royal Ballet – under the direction of Sir Peter Wright, making my way up through the ranks of the Company and being promoted to Principal Dancer in 1987.
Over the eleven years with the Company, I performed a varied repertoire not only in London but throughout the United Kingdom and in many countries around the world. Some of my many roles included Aurora (Sleeping Beauty); Odette/Odile (Swan Lake); Lise (La Fille Mal Gardee); Swanhilda (Coppelia); Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker); the title roles in Giselle and Pineapple Poll; Gypsy Girl (The Two Pigeons) and leading ballerina in both Paquita and Theme & Variations. Other ballets included Concerto; Divertimento No. 15; Flowers of the Forest; Elite Syncopations; Concerto Barocco, Raymonda and Five Tangos, along with showcase pas des deux such as Don Quixote and Tchaikovsky, to name only a few.
I was among the original casting for several new works and had the opportunity to work with many notable choreographers during this time, but the two highlights of my career were having David Bintley’s Allegri Diversi and Hobson’s Choice created especially for me.
I have taken part in Charity Galas, workshops, pre-performance talks, a performance at the Pilbeam Theatre (Rockhampton) in 1987 for the then Lady Mayoress’ Gala Charity and I have performed in front of royalty on several occasions.
After eleven years with SWRB, I made the difficult decision to leave the Company and pursue other avenues such as working at the Royal Ballet School for three years while having my family; training and gaining several qualifications and an National Vocational Qualification as a Fitness Instructor where I taught in adult education in the UK for eleven years, and also teaching ballet classes including solo and repertoire work.
After 31 years of living in London, I returned to Rockhampton, Australia in August 2009. In September 2010, I was one of the judges for the RAD Jacqueline Morland Awards in Brisbane, and in July 2011, one of the judges for the MacDonald Scholarship Awards in Sydney. In January 2013 I relocated to Brisbane where I am currently freelance teaching and coaching in and around Brisbane in various full time ballet schools.
In 2018 I was asked to establish and teach a classical ballet extension program for selected students of Capricorn School of Dancing in Rockhampton and this is continuing successfully. The same year I wrote a booklet – Pointes of View – to help ballet students prepare and maintain their pointe shoes. I currently hold a Certificate IV TAEASS502 in Assessing and Training.
I am very much enjoying the chance to pass on to a younger generation the wealth of knowledge I gained from my many years of performances.