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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Using old syllabus

Rich Beatt

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Hi everyone. I discovered my new ballet class is being taught from a 2002 publication of the Intermediate RAD syllabus. I myself have the current publication. Is it just as good of training with an older publication? If not, would it be outlandish to ask her if she would borrow my book to teach the class?

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Ballet has been around for a lot longer than 20 years. And the RAD syllabus is just one pathway into learning it - it's not meant to be an end in itself. 

Do you feel the instruction itself is good? Are you being taught any questionable things (eg tucking) that could indicate a teacher not keeping up best practices? If not, you're probably good to keep going as is. I personally would never offer to substitute a newer syllabus - it can't be that they don't know it exists.

Now, if you're looking to do the exams themselves, it may be a different story! 

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Are you preparing for the RAD Intermediate exam? If so, you will need to learn the set exercises at some point, but even the RAD syllabus includes free work at Intermediate level. Good teachers will use the set exercises occasionally, but will also teach beyond the syllabus, and sometimes more advanced or complex versions of combinations, according to their pupils' abilities. If you're a competent dancer at RAD Intermediate level, and used to open or 'free' classes where exercises are set differently each class, then I'd say it probably only takes a couple of months to learn the set exercises, because you'll have encountered all the steps and combinations. Then it's just a matter of learning the specific combinations that the RAD has set.

But there's nothing particularly magical about a specific syllabus. It's just a graded way of teaching in a logical manner. 

If you're preparing for the Inter exam, then it might be worth asking the teacher when you should start to memorise specific combinations. But if you trust your teacher, and the teaching is good, then it shows a bit of a lack of trust (or even disrespect of the teacher's abilities & knowledge) to suggest she borrow your copy of the syllabus.

What are your aims here? is what I'm asking, I suppose.

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I’m just confused as to why a teacher would use the old syllabus? They can’t use it to prepare for an exam, so if it’s just an open class why not create your own exercises? It’s like a red-ish flag to me, but your teacher may have a valid reason.

Anyways, I agree with everyone else, if you think you are benefiting from the class then there’s probably no major issue. But if you plan to take the exam, or if you think the instruction is sub-par, you might want to look for a new class. 

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I would like to prep for exams one day but I’m in no rush as I have a lot of work to do. My studio does not offer examinations so I would have to go externally to do that at this point. I may see how our relationship builds and see if she would be open to doing the current syllabus in a future year so that I may go externally to do the exam.

One of my classes is open and the other is structured. I have actually yet to dance as I currently have a fractured foot so only sat in to watch the RAD class a few times. I am also in an adult class with a different instructor where everyone is very beginner and the class is not a challenge at all for me but I choose to participate to mix it up. It will be a nice cool down for me after my thursday open senior class. 

My instructor trained with Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, and did teacher training with National Ballet and RAD.  I think I trust her. 

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Miss Persistent

The 2002 Intermediate syllabus was replaced in 2011 with the newer "Intermediate Ballet Set Exercises and Variations".

The 'old' syllabus was a large number of relatively simple exercises and dances, a selection of which were seen in an examination along with some 'free work' (previously unseen enchainements).  The 'new' syllabus is a set of choreographed exercises and dances designed to show off all of the candidates technical abilities and all the prepared work is seen in the exam (including unseen enchainements also). Essentially, the 2011 syllabus is the same principle as when you watch a Vaganova Examination class on YouTube - you see the students doing choreographed exercises that show off each of the skills they have trained over the period in a condensed format.  They didn't start with those combinations and bash away at them all year until they looked like that - there was steady training and progression along the way and this is the final product.  RAD Examinations are the same - the candidates prepare a series pre-set choreographed enchainements to show their training and recieve a mark.

So, the 'old' and 'new' books for the sake of exams do not relate to each other. The choreography is completely different. (I would not offer your 2011 book to your teacher!)

That said - the actual technical (steps) content of the two syllabi is very similar.  Essentially the 'old' syllabus is more of a step-by-step training style syllabus. Short, simple combinations that train individual steps.  That may be why your teacher is using it.  She sounds like a lovely well educated teacher who is more interested in training your technique rather than letting you bounce around doing complicated combinations.  She is obviously placing an emphasis on the technique and vocabulary understanding at this point.

Why would someone use an 'old' syllabus if any incarnation? Well for many reasons.  It is well thought out, has good structure and progression, the exercises are well constructed, is tried and tested, has logical progressions, they can be adapted as needed, you can change music all you want to.  Heck - if you're teaching fulltime you sometimes like to just have something good to go!  Planning individual exercises and progressions for an entire week's worth of teaching every week Is a big ask! Sure, you can chuck together an open class on the fly - but will it cover everything in the right order at the right time? What is wrong with someone using a well established resource to aid their students training and allow them to get some sleep?

It is not a red flag to me at all- It's actually smart.  I often look back over old syllabus for inspiration, and even used a dozen or so exercises in some of my classes this week.  Does that make me some kind of untrained, archaic, un-educated, 'no-idea-what-she's-doing' teacher?  Not at all! It’s no different from someone opening ‘100 lessons in Classical Ballet’ and using exercises from that. I agree with Redbookish, a syllabus is a system of training.


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Thank you Miss P. That’s all I needed to know!! She is lovely. And I can’t wait to get this aircast off so I can do more than just watch. 

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