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Ballet Talk for Dancers

No Turnout - No Exam...


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Hi All,


I was talking to my Private Ballet teacher about taking exams and she is concerned I will never be at the level to take my RAD vocational grades because of my bad turnout... (not appauling, but I am quite stiff in my hips due to the fact I had a turned in leg when I was young!) She said I could possibly do Intermediate Foundation but she's not sure. This upsets me because I really want to study dance in the future (I've thought more on the lines of Jazz/Modern now, as Ballet doesn't seem possible :( ) but I would like to try to pass my exams - so that I have something to list on my application forms!


I understand I am pushing it a bit with getting accepted into full time vocational training - being a 20 year old dance student... but I love dance :wub:


My teacher says it is a shame because I have such a nice feel for dance, and she can tell it is something I truly love to do..


I want to do my grades but I don't think the school I am in will let me enter - if I'm not allowed to do any exams what can I do!!


Has anyone else been in this situation? - I am so frustrated!


Jen x

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Jen, exams are not essentially to studying dance, on any level. They are only used in RAD training, and Cecchetti. Many, many schools, worldwide, do not use exams at all. Dancers are placed by level, and I really don't think that having an application with some exam on it is going to make a major difference. You are probably in an RAD school, where that is emphasized, however, if you go to London and study at one of the big schools with open classes, this will not be a problem at all. Same goes for the States.

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I took the syllabus classes but never did the exams - did my technique a world of good. Perhaps they will let you take the classes even if you don't do the exams?

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Have you been shown ways of using the turn out that you do have? I've seen a top dancer, and I mean TOP, principal level dancer, whose first position plie in class looks almost like a beginner's, because of a physical limitation. She's certainly got gobs of talent to make up for it, and a will of iron. But it's also about learning how to work turned out, even if you dont have a lot of it. You can make yourself look turned-out.


Look up Alexandra Ansanelli (formerly) of NYCB. Patricia Barker of PNB supposedly doesn't have much turn out either. My teacher doesn't have a whole lot and she had a decent career in good companies. There's a lot of "illusion" in ballet, but someone has to show you how to maximize what you do have. It takes a really good teacher.


But, yes, the exams are not necessary at all, especially if you're interested in other dance forms. All that matters is how well you dance.

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Hi Jen,


I really feel for you as I am in the same position as you (i.e. not much turnout, as well as other physical limitations which I won't bore you with).


If I understand this right from your previous posts, you have ambitions to qualify as a ballet teacher, & if you want to do this in the UK, you DO have to pass the Vocational exams, at least as far as Intermediate. No way around it. (Sorry if I am contradicting anyone. I know in other countries the situation may be different.)


In my case I know I will never be a ballet teacher, but I would still have liked to do the exams because it is someone telling you that yes, you HAVE reached that standard. Or not, in my case, because they decided against letting me do the exam because I was "borderline" & they didn't want me to do it unless they were sure I would pass. (This was Cecchetti Grade 4, a couple of years ago).


However I HAVE done ISTD tap & modern exams, & got a B for Tap Grade 3 & a C for Modern Grade 4 this last January (not bad for someone in her late 30's & overweight!)


So you may well have a chance if you take that route (though I think you have to pass up to Advanced 1 to be allowed to teach those...)


But - I thought you were planning to do your RAD Grade 6 this winter? Have they told you no for that as well? If so I can completely understand you are gutted, I know I would be.



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Jane, I'm studying for my grade 4 Cecchetti exam at this time and I can tell you it is a great bit harder than grade 3. I hope I can pass it this next fall.


I know that taking exams is not necessary for improving in ballet but I will agree that studying for them helps you in ways I think is different than taking regular classes. The graded syllabus seems so much more thorough and when that grade is over you have a better knowledge of what you specifically need to improve on. For instance, in an open class we may be introduced briefly to a pas de basque in a combination in the center floor. That particular step may not be used again for quite a while and in the meantime is forgotten. Without the repetition syllabus classes provide it is sometimes hard to actually master a step, especially if that particular teacher is not fond of it. There are exceptions, of course, and many teachers who are willing to teach a step until it is mastered by all the students in the class. Plus, there's just something to be said about having that wonderful certificate to hang on your wall or refrigerator. :o


JennyKay, I hope your teacher gives you a chance at taking the exams. I have found them to be very rewarding. If not, are there any near you that might take another view? Some teachers may be afraid of looking bad if a student of theirs fails, in which case if you are "borderline" they may not take a chance. I think that's too bad. But that's a whole new discussion. Good Luck.



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Thank you for all your replies... You have made me feel much better!


Exams seem to be a very important part in the school I go to, and yes I do study RAD... It just seems a shame that i've worked hard towards the exam and I cannot take it. (Spingbug - those certificates are pretty :) )


Lampwick, that info on the principal dancers has made me realise that if I truly work hard I can achieve what I want.


I'm going to fill up my timetable next term with as many classes I can...

I'm searching everywhere for a school with daily classes! I've been looking into applying for the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance on their degree programme, and also London Studio Centre.


Jane S - are you coming to the ENB weekend?

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Jane S - are you coming to the ENB weekend?


No, I'm afraid I don't have the confidence (maybe next year, if enough of the weight has come off by then....) :)


I think Spinbug is right in that the teachers don't want to look bad by having someone fail - they are judged by their exam results and if they get too many fails they may get in trouble with the RAD or ISTD or whoever.


Also they would feel bad for the student if it happened. (I think it also depends on who the examiner is - if they know (s)he is a hard marker they will be less likely to put a borderline person in.)


From what you have posted in the past, you definitely need to do more classes - to take Vocational Grades you should be doing a minimum of 3 syllabus classes a week, according to the RAD website.


If you are only doing one Intermediate Foundation class no wonder you are not ready. There is no way you could be.


As for the RAD grades, I don't know so much about those, but if you did the exam, your grade would give you a good indication of how you are doing and what potential you may have as a dancer.


By the way, my modern teacher (a very good dancer) says she did not become a ballet teacher due to lack of turnout. So you are definitely not alone!


Good luck with the applications.



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Wow, a lot of things to consider.


I don't think, even in the UK, that you *have to have to* have all the certificates to teach here. You would if you wanted to get an RAD teaching certificate or the like, but I know many people who don't (granted, most of them don't teach syllabus). I also know someone who has her RAD teachers but also teaches Checchetti, etc. Maybe some other teachers here could correct me if I'm wrong.


I also, as usual :innocent: completely agree with Ms. Leigh. If you are looking into the vocational schools you mention, the exams matter much less than the actual quality of training you've received.


And I think that holds true for what spinbug is saying - yes, the syllabus gives you a chance to master steps, have repetition, etc. But I think any good training would have seriously thought about progression in all those ways. The problem being that there is a lot of not-so-good training out there, both in syllabus and non-syllabus classes.


Jenny, has your teacher addressed your turn out a lot in classes, or is this something that just came up when you were talking with her about exams?


If you are thinking about other dance forms, or about Rambert, LSC, I would suggest that you really find yourself good quality classes, of an appropriate time length and frequency, that include (from your other thread!) barre and centre in every class!!! Keep at it and see what you can find, and let us know how you get on!


Best of luck!



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I don't think, even in the UK, that you *have to have to* have all the certificates to teach here.  You would if you wanted to get an RAD teaching certificate or the like, but I know many people who don't (granted, most of them don't teach syllabus).  I also know someone who has her RAD teachers but also teaches Checchetti, etc.  Maybe some other teachers here could correct me if I'm wrong.



Oops, maybe I didn't say it clear enough. I meant to say "take the RAD/ISTD etc teaching exams", not just "teach". Sorry.


Of course there is nothing to stop anyone teaching - although I would expect most employers would ask to see certificates these days. But I know a lot of already established teachers are "qualified by experience" in that their results speak for themselves. I never meant to imply otherwise.



Edited by jane s
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Yup Jane, we're totally in agreement here! :D


If you want the teaching certificate, then yes, the exams are required. And again, there are many teachers who don't have them and teach, obviously.


It really depends on one's experience as to what works. I know one who has a certificate, and it definitely helped in finding employment here in the UK.

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Hi Jen,

I know you must be disappointed about this situation, how does your teacher know that you will never be ready?

Im not trying suggest your teacher is wrong or not thinking of your best intrests.


What im getting at is, you are the only one in control of your potential and your future (to an extent!) only you can change your life. We can always try harder and aim higher :cool2:


How do you know for sure this is it, you can take more classes, change style, change schools.

I think you need to have faith in yourself and of course we have to be realistic but if you really want this, believe in yourself and give it your best shot :)

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Jen, I am glad people have responded so wonderfully to your post. I have been thinking a lot about you and your situation over the past few days, since lack of turnout has always been my biggest dance limitation. Sometimes I used to think, if I could take a spin in X's body, imagine what I could do. Then I would remember that X had a horrible mother, and didn't like to read :) , and couldn't jump as well as I did—so I didn't really want to be X. I've had teachers with lots of natural facility who didn't understand my difficulty and thought I just wasn't "getting it." They were the ones who weren't getting it: they should try dancing in my body! If you are able to work through this, you will be able to share so much knowledge with your students about working hard and smart.


Improve your turnout as much as you can, and hopefully it will be acceptable, but don't let it completely define you, i.e., Jen = dancer with bad turnout. I've made that mistake and gotten discouraged. I think we need to make sure to think about turnout in terms of function rather than aesthetics. Let me explain what I mean. I did an experiment doing developpes with the working leg completely turned in in a parallel position. I couldn't stand up straight, but buckled forward (this must be where those modern release moves came in). We're working from a turned out position to achieve certain ends, like upright carriage, not just because of how it looks in and of itself. Frankly, it looks a bit weird, and I don't think an audience would pay to watch someone stand in first or fifth position.


If your teacher is worried that lack of turnout will affect the level of technique you can achieve, there may be some truth to her concern. But I still don't like the notion that some RAD teachers cherrypick the students who are allowed to take exams. There is nothing wrong with aiming at a challenge you might not meet. Rather, I think it's a good thing, and it certainly happens in all areas of life, not just ballet. You might learn something in the process that will allow you to succeed on your next try. It would be wrong for your studio to give you false hope, but it also seems unfair to limit you. Maybe if they know how important it is to you they will reconsider; if not, I agree it may be worthwhile to shop around.

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Oh, and definitely take a yoga class. Doing that once a week improved my turnout more than I could in technique class alone. It's fun and relaxing and helps you to keep a positive attitude.

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Beck Hen - Thank you very much for your reply... I'm constantly looking at other dancers and thinking I wish I had your turn out!!! Also I believe the teachers at my school think - not flexible, can't dance well, thats the attitude they seem to have anyway.


I take a body balance class at my gym once a week, its a combination of Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates and I have definitely felt my flexibility improve.


Cassy - I really think I need more faith in myself as well, I'm so frustrated when I can't do something...! I can only do my best, i've not been to Ballet recently so i'm a little bit out of practice, I try and work at home but lack of space restricts me somewhat! - at least we have 2 days of ballet next weekend!


Ami - I was talking to my teacher about exams and dancing in general... My teacher (not private) does comment a lot on my turnout more than other things... but I don't get a lot of assistance on how to correct it so I get even more frustrated!


I'm def. gonna look for more longer classes!

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