Dance Exams: Information, Preparation, Expert Tips

by Danielle Hernandez on December 03, 2018

For serious dancers or those who wish to make dance their career, the whole exam process is a way to work towards their goal and help them achieve it. Be it any exam, you have to understand the importance of hard work, and smart work too! Learn tips, exams, and everything you need to crack your dance exams

For any dancer, whether they do Ballet, Jazz, Highland, Freestyle, Hip Hop or Ballroom, exams are clearly a way to show that they are serious about their careers as a dancer. Majority of dancers who take dance classes may or may not take exams as important when it comes to getting into a vocational school or pursuing a career as a dance performer.

But the exam process is meaningful in many ways

For serious dancers or those who wish to make dance their career, the whole exam process is a way to work towards their goal and help them achieve it. An exam is a great way to ensure

  • Discipline- Dance is not only about technique and hard work; you also need to study theory to an extent. Exams help in strengthening techniques, developing strong fundamentals and clarity about the dance form. The exams are a way for a young dancer to mark his or her progress in dance form.
  • Self-esteem- With teamwork, mutual respect and shared classroom environment, exams help dancers to improve their self-esteem too! Exams instill character, values and a passion for excellence in dancers.
  • Recognition- Who doesn't want to get recognized among peers? Continued education into the professional levels means a dancer can get certified by the reputed dance organizations. Exams are a great way to reach peers and seniors to recognize you as a professional.

Most leading dance teaching organizations like the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). International Dance Teacher’s Association (IDTA), The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), USA and many other organizations hold medal examinations in dance forms like ballet, ballroom dance, stage dance, etc. Ever since the exams got introduced in the early 1930s, they are extremely popular.

Though medal exams are not the same as professional qualifications, for which the same.

Medal tests are a way to check a dancer's capability in performing the dance form whether solo or with a partner, and are marked and observed by an appointed examiner. The dancer is rated based on their ability to perform routines, display techniques, etc and syllabus and detailed instructions are published and specified by the examining body.

For example, for lower levels of medal exams, basic figures, like a natural turn in Waltz are evaluated to check the dancer's understanding of the technique. Similarly, the dancer who attains good points at lower levels is considered to be fundamentally strong when it is time to be evaluated for higher levels of dancing.

A Latin American Dance student, attempting to achieve the Bronze level, might be asked to take up multiple dance forms like Cha-Cha-Cha, Samba, and Rumba. The same dancer, when appearing for Gold Level, might be asked to perform all 5 international Latin dances.

Many studios organize these medal exams for its students for better accreditation and giving accomplished students and teachers a chance to perform in front of professionals and get accredited.

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), for example, provides the most comprehensive syllabus for the teachers. The courses are designed to motivate and encourage students of all ages and levels of ability through a systematic measurement of progress and attainment. The exams can be held only by a qualified Royal Academy Dance Registered Teacher (RAD- RT). The RAD seeks a rigorous certification, BA and Master Degree programs in dance from its teachers to get the RT status.

The graded exams are usually suitable for students from the age of 5, and most organizations provide Pre-School Dance curriculum for candidates from the age of 21/2. For those who choose to make dance a vocational choice, the age of entry starts at about 11 years.

Solo Seal Award is the highest Vocational Graded examination offered by the RAD. Here is a summary of important examinations that are going to be held by ISTD in the upcoming months.

Examination Period Genres Levels Intent to Enter Deadline Final Entries and Payment Deadline
22 February - 21 March 2019 Imperial Classical Ballet Grades to Licentiate 11 September 2018 11 December 2018
23 April - 07 June 2019 Modern - Tap Grades to Licentiate 16 October 2018 07 February 2019
23 April - 07 June 2019 Modern - Tap Grades to Licentiate 16 October 2018 07 February 2019
10 - 23 May 2019 Classical Indian Kathak Grades to Advanced 2 11 December 2018 12 March 2019
21 October - 15 November 2019 Classical Indian Kathak Grades to Intermediate 10 April 2019 17 July 2019 

For students looking at performing arts college admissions next year, apart from independent dance organizations offering certifications, you can also attempt to get into schools providing drama and dance degrees.

Going to a performing arts college means you will be surrounded by like-minded artists who will inspire you, and help you with your creative pursuits. You will also have alumni who could be your colleagues when you graduate. What’s more, you will be at a school that doesn’t view dance as an extracurricular activity. Most of these schools will require the ACT or SAT score for you to be eligible for applying. Additionally, you may also have to appear for an audition for admission. Your medals or grade level qualifications from independent dance organizations would be surely an added advantage to make it to the big league.

Some of the best performing arts colleges in the country are:

Preparation for the Exams

Preparation for the exams

Be it any exam, you have to understand the importance of hard work, and smart work too!

If you don't prepare yourself mentally as well as physically for a dance exam, all your hard work can go to waste. To understand how it works, think of yourself as a top-class athlete, competing at the Olympics. You need to eat the right food, have the right mental attitude, as well as let your body rest well in the run-up to your exams. Simple things can make a massive difference to your performance and mental clarity.

Guzzling down energy drinks, less sleep, eating highly processed junk food while prepping for exams is a sure shot recipe for disaster.

Here is what you should do

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Continue with your exercise routine- every day
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Focus on what you do know, rather than what you don’t know
  • Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast
  • Avoid caffeine- energy drinks, Colas, and coffee
  • Formulate a daily routine and stick to it
  • Take a deep breath when you get stuck, it will all work out in the end!

Preparing well for any exam largely depends on what you are doing the whole year through. Even independent practices like eating well and sleeping on time, having a set routine and discipline around the year contribute to your preparation for a dance exam. Your academic achievements demonstrate a degree of determination and hard work, and it doesn't get unnoticed along with your SAT scores at performing arts schools!

How to Crack your Dance Exams

How to crack your dance exams

Any form of dance needs rigorous practice. The dancers undergo very tough exams to move onto next level/grade. To advance, you need to do well in your exams, and to crack your exams, here are some tips:

  1. Present yourself well- your hair should be neat, manage flyaway hair, use hair accessories unless specified by your examiner.
  2. Follow the dress code- Take your instructor's suggestions very seriously. Wear appropriate, neat and tidy dancewear specific to your dance form. Remove jewelry; nail polish etc. for a clean, disciplined look. Apply correct makeup wherever necessary.
  3. Warm up before the exam- stretch for at least a few minutes before you perform for examiners.
  4. Manage your attitude- be confident, smile, and stand in the first position of any dance form, especially ballet. Greet your examiner and be polite. Try not to watch others while performing.
  5. An expression is essential- Enjoy your music when you are performing at the exam. Try and keep nervousness at bay. Express your feelings through your dance.

Some Expert tips

Some Expert tips

Prepare, and prepare well during the entire year. Be focused on having goals for your dance exam. Work with your dance teacher on your goals. Don't let your mind wander on what you can’t do correctly, visualize yourself feeling comfortable, confident and calm.

Attend some exam preparation workshops. You will gain more insights into your dancing techniques and preparations from other instructors.

Work on the corrections and feedback given by your dance teacher.

Should you falter during your performance, don’t let it show. Move on, and make the next step better than the one before. Remember to breathe!!

Good luck with your dance exams!

Happy Dancing!

The Hollywood Reporter


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