For many students of ballet, one of the big focus points of their year is the annual ballet exams. The Royal Academy of Dance has a syllabus that includes regular exams for students studying ballet and the chance to get regular ideas on how their dance is progressing and if there’s a professional future possible for them. So, what are the ballet exams and what is tested?
Background to Ballet Exams
The Royal Academy of Dance was founded back in 1920 and their exams are designed to improve standards and to refresh dance training. They aim to produce teachers to a certain teaching standard who then pass this knowledge to their students. Currently, there are around 13,000 teachers and some 250,000 students spread across nearly 80 countries around the world.
The RAD has the Queen as its patron and supports dance at all levels including professional dancers, teachers, students as well as friends and benefactors of the industry. It also works with all levels of ballet including through the Faculty of Education degree programs through to things like summer schools for kids.
How the Syllabus Works
The syllabus which is the basis for the exams comes in three parts - classical, free movement and character dance.
With classical, this is the most important part of the syllabus and is the foundation work that a dancer needs to do. The free movement component includes movements that are found in other styles of dance as well as ballet including Greek dance and natural movement.
The character dance involves theatrical presentations of national dance that has been adapted for theatre. Three styles are usually chosen for their historic importance to the development of ballet - Russian, Hungarian, and Polish.
Exam Entry Requirements
The acceptance to take an exam is done by age group and allows for children of similar ages to be examined together. The age groups are usually:
- Pre-primary - up to age 5
- Primary - up to age 6
- Grades 1-5 or to age 7
- Grade 6-8 or up to age 11
There are two options for the exams. The student can either study for a graded examination or presentation class to progress to a higher level. Or they can take vocational graded examinations to progress.
How are the Exams Graded?
Each candidate will receive a result based on the marks from their exams and these can be compared to pre-published assessment criteria to see how they compare to others of the same grade. If they pass the exam, they will receive a Certificate and level of attainment while those who are unsuccessful will still receive a Certificate of Participation.
There are four levels used to grade participants:
1. Distinction - 100-75 (around 5% reach this mark)
2. Merit - 74-55 (around 15% reach this mark)
3. Pass - 54-40 (around 75% reach this mark)
4. Standard not met - 39 or below (around 5% reach this mark)
Exams are not a requirement to progress in ballet, but they are a useful tool to measure how a child is progressing and to get an idea of their potential in the future. They are also a great goal to work towards as part of their dance education.