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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Guest MarysMom

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Guest MarysMom

This may be a stupid question, but....

I am new to ballet, and I am having my 3rd class today. I love it, and hope to continue taking classes for a long time. I have been reading alot of ballet websites, and I have seen a lot of people mentioning that they are taking exams. Can someone explain these to me? What are the levels and what must you do in order to pass an exam? Is this something I can work towards? Or is it for the more serious, younger dancers? I am a figure skater, and I wonder if they are similar to 'tests' that skaters take. Also, are there adult level competitions? Just curious. I know I am not ready for this after only a few classes...I am just trying to learn all I can. Thank you in advance for your help!

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Hi Marysmom :)


Yes you can work towards exams but it would depend on what syllabus your ballet school was following. For exmaple, and I'll use the UK as an example, we have RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and Ceccehtti, ISTD (Imperial Soceity for Teachers of Dancing) and NATD (National Association of Teachers of Dance). The ballet schools will tend to follow either one of these or maybe a few of them. For each there is a set syllabus, for example, if you go to this website, http://www.rad.org.uk/ scroll down the menu on the left to student training course, then click on exams. You can read all about the different grading system and levels.


In the UK, adults do have the opportunity to take exams in all the above syllabi that I mentioned, however, when I came over here to the US and tried to continue with my RAD training, well I didn't exactly get a wonderful recpetion. So I don't do set syllabus work anymore.

As far as I can tell, adults taking ballet exams in the US are quite rare. There are some though.


So how would it work? well to start with you would be placed in a particular grade by your teacher according to what your current abilities are. Then in that class, you would follow a set syllabus. Normally in the form of set barre work, a set adagio or 2, a couple of allegro, grande allegro and petit allegro combinations. You may be given enchainements then a classical dance and a demi-character dance. Pointe work would be included if it was required for that grade. You would learn the same exercises over and over again until you have them to a high standard, then your teacher would enter you or the class in for the exam for that grade/level. You go to the exam, do what you learned, and you are graded. As long as you get a pass, you can then move onto the next level, where you repeat the whole process again. But, this time more advanced steps are added.




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From what I have heard its not that popular amongst the young dancers either. If you are that good you go to pre-professional school and therefore follow their levels/grade system. If it is just recreational dance or non-vocational then unless you go to a RAD school overehere in the US you won't get to do exams as such. ISTD, NATD and Ceccheti are not really or doesn't seem to be that popular,alhtough I could be mistaken on that one.

Some schools with adults in do have a kind of yearly placement exam of sorts. But those are mainly done within the school, i.e. your teacher will watch you and see whether or not you are ready to progress to the next level. Or you have a yearly recital after which you progress to the next level.


So what is your school like?

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I have never taken an exam, and I am pretty much unfamiliar with the whole thing. I have to admitt, I am glad we don't do exams here (I am in the US). It sounds kind of boring. I really enjoy that we do something new every few classes. New routines, combinations, even our barre work varries from class to class. One day we work from first, another fifth, sometimes a bit of both. I really like the variety. I supposes, ballet is ballet and I would love it, even if it was repetitive, but I really do like how different each class is each time.

Anyway, thats just my 2 cents.



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I LOVE taking exams... It's my only way of knowing what I'm worth in ballet, and if I hadn't have it, I probably would think I'm superb at it when in fact, I need to work on lots of things! ;)


I took ballet in France in a conservatory, and we had exams every year (even a 'pre' assessment, mid-year, by our own teachers)... It was very very frightening. At the time, it was performed in the theatre and an external examiner would come and mark us (I suppose, like the RAD now, but the examiner was in a theatre seat, we would almost never see his/her face, which makes it more extraordinary and scary!)

When I arrived in Scotland (I had stopped for 2 years studying at university) I took ballet again without thinking of exams, because I had lost most of my strength and wanted to go back to a 'normal' level before attempting exams again...


I recently took my advanced 2 and work towards my solo seal... This is hard work and to me, is NEVER repetitive... I always learn something new each time, and trying to improve on something I (supposed to :) ) know how to do is not boring at all... It's very rewarding when you can quantify your progress....


I guess I could follow classes without being examined (I'll have to think about it, since there is nothing else after that last exam :) ) but it will not be the same, I won't be motivated the same way :)


OH MY GOD, I just realised I was listed as 'senior member'... Glups!! How is that for a surprise! :eek:

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I'd like to add my 2-p's worth on this topic...


If you have the chance to do exam work, give it a go. You will get a lot more out of your ballet classes and have more time to work on your problem areas. You will also receive more attention than in the general type of class because the teacher will be watching everyone very carefully to decide whether people are ready to take the exam or not.


I did general-type beginners classes from the age of 19 to 21 then went into a RAD Grade 6 Class. I soon joined a RAD Elementary one as well, doing that until I graduated from University age 24. During that time I worked on grades 6 and 7. I didn't get a good mark in grade 6 and failed grade 7 and I was never judged to be ready to take Elementary, but I wasn't really bothered about that because I felt doing this kind of work had benefited me in so many other ways. Your technique will improve in leaps and bounds ;) and you will become more confident in all sorts of things like epaulement and you will learn all kinds of weird stuff you'd never thought of before, like classroom etiquette (how to stand, treat the barre like a 'partner'! etc.)


Having said all that, doing exam work requires a lot of commitment and if you find it difficult to be flexible with your time you are probably best to just find several open, general classes that you like and feel like you are progressing in.


It's quite a personal thing, but I'd never say that syllabus work was 'boring' - I like the structure and stability exam classes offer. But then that's just me. Everyone's got their pet peeves and preferences...


Do a bit of shopping around and you'll find something to suit you. Let us know how you decide! :)

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Guest MarysMom

Thanks for the input. My ballet school does not have exams for adults :(

I am really interested in taking them, though. I also think it would make me work harder, and give me a goal to work toward. It seems like a good way to measure my progress. Maybe I should look in to other programs in the area, and see if any of them offer exams for adults?

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This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately too. Although I like the flexibility of the open classes that I go to, I would like to be able to take some classes that had an associated exam. I like the idea of being able to measure my progress and push myself to another level.


If you can't find a program in your area that offers exams, why not talk to your teacher(s) and let them know your concerns (wanting to be able to measure progress, following a certain syllabus, etc.) and see what their suggestions are? Even though I don't have exams available to me, I am lucky to have one very good teacher who does follow a syllabus throughout the year and encourages students to keep moving up to the next level. So I know that I'm progressing, even if there's no exam.

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